The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone

Something about the hook for the The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors intrgued me when I heard about the book from NetGalley. Here is the publishers blurb:

On a sunny day in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 1977, Becca Burke, flame-haireddaughter of Mary and Rowan Burke, was struck by lightning. She was eight years old. Noone believed her, even when her Winnie-the-Pooh watch kept losing time and a spookyhalo of light appeared over her head in every photograph taken after the strike. She was hitagain when she was 16. Becca survived, but over time she would learn that outsmartinglightning was the least of her concerns.

Buckley R. Pitank never knew his real father, but his mother was the love of his life–until the day she was struck and killed by lightning on a boat in Galveston, Texas, just asthey were making a new home far away from their troubled past. Reeling from the loss ofthe one person who truly understood him, Buckley returns to Mont Blanc, Arkansas, tolive at the mercy of his mother’s estranged husband, the Reverend John Whitehouse.When he finally escapes, Buckley’s quest to understand the power of lightning will leadhim around the country and into the heart of a young woman who once thought she wasalone in the world.

So with a few clicks I had it available to read on my Kindle – and I finished a few weeks back and wanted to finally post on it. It turned out my hunch was right and it was an engaging read.

More thoughts below.

Despite my interest, my initial worry was that this story would turn out to be too dark or morose for my tastes.  But instead I found Young-Stone’s portrait(s) of characters buffeted by storms literal and metaphorical captivating. She skilfully captures both the time periods and ages involved as well as the variety of ways humans can find tragedy – both of their own making and that out of their control.

Weaving the life stories of Beca Burke and Buckley R. Pitank together with excerpts from Buckley’s self-published book – which mirrors the title of the novel – Young-Stone keeps the reader moving forward. You know in the end that Burke and Pitnak will meet and there is likely to be fireworks but Young-Stone manages to pull it off anyways.

The ending struck me – no pun intended – as poignant; life may be cruel but humans find a way to carry on and even find some good to hang on to.

A creative and engaging debut.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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