AUTHOR: Michele Young-Stone
PUBLISHER: Braodway Paperbacks
AGENT: Michelle Brower
GENRE: Literary fiction
The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors is a novel about people. Duh, you say, all novels are about people. But really, I say, this novel is about people. It’s about a little girl who gets struck by lightning, a little boy who wishes he got struck by lightning, an alcoholic with a cheating husband, a husband with an alcoholic for a wife… the list goes on. Don’t let the title fool you, it’s not about lightning.
It’s been a while since I’ve gotten halfway through a book and found myself unable to put it down until I finished it four hours later, having forgotten all previous obligations. But that’s what I did when I read The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone.
I honestly don’t know. When I started reading it, I was thrown off by seemingly needless tense changes, which flipped the narration from past to present between chapters. I found myself frustrated by the intermittent use of first names, last names and nicknames, which forced my feeble mind to remember three times as many characters as I needed to. I was surprised when she started speaking to me in the second person, and sometimes confused by her constant point-of-view changes.
And yet, I quickly got used to her unusual style and read on, enthralled by the clash of beautiful and grotesque that was so elegantly laid out before me. Michele Young-Stone is a poet.
And while a poet must obviously have a handle on words, in my opinion that’s not what’s most important. A good poet is an observer, someone who quietly takes in their surroundings, who empathizes with their enemies, who sees the whole picture. If the poet doesn’t see the whole picture, neither will I when I read their work.
When I finished reading The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors, I might as well have been at a gallery opening. I didn’t just see one picture, I saw many. I saw the young and the old with their faults and their strengths, laid out before me and framed with dovetail joints.
I don’t know what you’ll get out of The Handbook for Lightning Survivors, but I found forgiveness. For myself and others.
If you’re looking for an action-packed page turner, look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for a book that spins a tale so vivid that you can’t put it down, look no further. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen, or The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.
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