Summary and book reviews of Above The Thunder by Renée Manfredi

Above The Thunder

By Renée Manfredi

Above The Thunder
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2004,
    333 pages.
    Paperback: May 2005,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

Above the Thunder tells the mesmerizing story of three generations of women confronting the emotional turmoil of abandonment, and the men with whom their lives converge. Young and ambitious Anna puts her career on hold to support her husband through medical school, only to find out she's pregnant when it's her turn. Troubled and difficult from the start, Anna's daughter, Poppy, hasn't been home since she drove away with the man who came to buy the family's VW bus. After a twelve-year absence, Poppy begs to reunite with her now widowed mother, only to disappear again, leaving her mysterious and wildly imaginative young daughter, Flynn, in Anna's care.

This is also the story of Jack and Stuart, a couple struggling with commitment despite their love for one another. When Jack and Stuart meet Anna in a support group, they feel a connection that eventually leads them to form a loving, if unlikely, family. Gorgeously written and imbued with both wisdom and humor, Above the Thunder reminds us that created families can be every bit as vital as the families into which we are born.


From the Author 

The kernel of this novel began with an article I read over ten years ago in a Cincinnati newspaper. A ten-year-old girl committed suicide by throwing herself in front of a train, in hopes of becoming an angel and joining her mother, who had just died of AIDS. It was a story that haunted me all these years, and became the spark that got the novel underway. The novel was well underway when Jack and Stuart walked in, but it was these characters I felt I knew best.

Mostly what I see now when I look back on writing this book, is myself working day after day, sometimes ten hours a day, often through tedium or exasperation or frustration. But there were also moments that I can only describe as magical, passages, especially in the sections with Flynn, in which the ordinary world became luminous and a little terrifying, whole sections of the book that I don't recollect writing. I don't put a whole lot of stock in mysticism, but the experience I had with this character made me rethink certain things about faith, about phenomena outside the mainstream. Odd things began to happen in my environment. The fuses in my house blew more times than I could count. The electronics went a little haywire ­ the television turning on by itself, lights flickering, clocks stopping at 3:33 a.m. ­ along with a spontaneous combustion of the heating system in my house that filled the entire house with ash and turned my white cat charcoal grey for months. Perhaps this is all coincidence, or my own inattention to things while in the white heat of writing.

What I do know for sure is this: that if I hadn't pushed past what I believed my limitations to be, I wouldn't have had those rare moments that have become the reason I write, those moments of feeling lifted up to a different level of awareness, moments of pure exhilaration that makes it all worth it.

Anna stood, lightheaded, not sure what to do: rush out and greet them? Wait until they rang the bell? She heard car doors slam, a man's voice: "Take that off right now, Flynn."

"No," the child said.

"Get the cat," he said. "And I told you to take those goggles off."

The doorbell rang. Anna walked down the hall stairs, turned on the lights. Marvin's big frame filled the doorway. "You made it," she said, and stepped aside. "I was getting a little worried."

"Sorry," he said. "We got a bit behind schedule. We had, uh, a slight problem along the way."

"Oh?" She peeked around him for Poppy.

Marvin cupped Anna's elbow lightly, led her away from the door.

"Flynn?" he called over his shoulder.

"I'm getting the cat," she called back. "I'll be right in."

"Where's Poppy?"

Marvin sank down on the couch, sighed, and ran his hands through his hair—still shoulder-length, the way it was when Anna first laid eyes on him. He smoothed it...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

The introduction, discussion questions, suggested reading list, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your group's discussion of the unforgettable Above the Thunder, an astonishing debut novel which explores the subtle, treacherous line between living and dying and captures in gorgeously rendered language the unexpected entanglements of the heart that can transform a life forever.

Introduction

Devastated by the loss of her beloved husband and numb over the callous disappearance of her drug-addicted daughter, Anna has buried her grief in her medical work and wants nothing more than to be left blissfully ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Booklist - Whitney Scott

In this moving, engrossing family drama about journeys taken willingly and, for the most part, not, relatives' and acquaintances' lives intersect, and tests of family loyalties and friendships spur growth and insight. Meanwhile, Manfredi handles each character confidently and credibly.

Publishers Weekly

Manfredi charts the disappointments and surprises of the human heart in her stunning debut novel...to describe the novel as a brilliant, issue-oriented drama shortchanges Manfredi's accomplishments....

Kirkus Reviews

Longer and rather more drawnout than it needs to be, but a good account of friendship and loss, freshly narrated with a minimum of stereotypes and some sharply drawn characters.

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