Summary and book reviews of The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone

The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors

A Novel

By Michele Young-Stone

The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Apr 2010,
    384 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2011,
    384 pages.

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About this Book

Book Summary

When lightning strikes, lives are changed.

BECCA

On a sunny day in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, eight-year-old Becca Burke was struck by lightning. No one believed her—not her philandering father or her drunk, love-sick mother—not even when her watch kept losing time and a spooky halo of light appeared overhead in photographs. Becca was struck again when she was sixteen. She survived, but over time she would learn that outsmarting lightning was the least of her concerns.

BUCKLEY
 
In rural Arkansas, Buckley R. Pitank’s world seemed plagued by disaster. Ashamed but protective of his obese mother, fearful of his scathing grandmother, and always running from bullies (including his pseudo-evangelical stepfather), he needed a miracle to set him free. At thirteen years old, Buckley witnessed a lightning strike that would change everything.
 
Now an art student in New York City, Becca Burke is a gifted but tortured painter who strives to recapture the intensity of her lightning-strike memories on canvas. On the night of her first gallery opening, a stranger appears and is captivated by her art. Who is this odd young man with whom she shares a mysterious connection?

When Buckley and Becca finally meet, neither is prepared for the charge of emotions—or for the perilous event that will bring them even closer to one another, and to the families they’ve been running from for as long as they can remember.

Crackling with atmosphere and eccentric characters, The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors explores the magic of nature and the power of redemption in a novel as beautiful and unpredictable as lightning itself.

90% of lightning strike victims survive.
—THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS

A fish . . .

She was a girl like you or like someone you knew-from a cracked home, a fault line between her parents, for which she felt responsible. A pretty girl with red hair: too curly to contain in barrettes or under headbands, twisting free, needing to spiral and curl like the ocean waves to her right.

The sun was hot, turning her back pink. She took great strides, walking faster, nearly running, her shadow mixed with the surf. Sanderlings scurrying to and fro mixed with her shadow. Except for the birds, she was alone with her thoughts, with hopes to caulk the crevice between her mother and father, the way she'd seen her mother do, wearing latex gloves, smoothing slow-drying putty around the bathtub's perimeter. How she set her highball on the tub's edge, digging out the old grout using a flat-head screwdriver. Mother was always drinking, and Dad was always working, but cracks can be mended so ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. How important was Becca’s friendship to Carrie? Do you fault Carrie for believing Mike’s story over Becca’s, or did Carrie have just cause to blame Becca?

  2. Did you feel that Mary Burke was an empathetic character? Could you forgive her flaws after learning about her relationship with her own father?

  3. Rowan Burke’s philandering played a significant role in the early part of the novel. How did his behavior later impact Becca’s relationships with men?

  4. What significance did the Book of Job play in the novel? Who might be considered a Job figure and why?

  5. When the author refers to “this god” and “that god,” how are these gods different from Buckley’s understanding ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Young-Stone tells parallel stories that hurdle storm after storm headlong into one another. ... [She] is a very fine writer who has created a host of endearing losers... What she does best is portray the incredulousness of the unlucky.

Library Journal

Starred Review. It's not often that this reviewer regrets a book's ending, but that's what happened here. The sense of melancholy, tempered by the resilience and heart of the characters, makes this ripe for Oprah or fans of Elizabeth Berg or Anne Tyler.

Booklist

Starred Review. Young-Stone's luminescent debut ... will live on in readers’ minds long after they reach the end of this powerful, beautiful novel.

Reader Reviews
Jodie A. (Corpus Christi, TX)

The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors
I really enjoyed reading this book. The characters were unique and interesting. The storyline held my attention. I also liked the way the author mixed in the facts about lightning. The only criticism I have is that every once in a while I got ...   Read More

Cindy A.

Surviving the Ravages of Life
Young-Stone uses spare prose to tell the stories of her characters, which seems appropriate for telling the lives of Becca and Buckley, who do not have much magnanimity in their lives. Unfortunately, I did not find them very likable in spite of my ...   Read More

WDH (New Port Richey, FL)

Easy to Read
There were a lot of coincidences between the characters, places and times in this story that were almost too coincidental for belief. I chose to go with the flow of the story and not over-think the coincidences and ended up really liking the book. I ...   Read More

Maria P. (Washington, DC)

Lightning Life
Somehow it seems that this book was a lightning strike survivor. The characters live, die and survive only to face the wildness of nature, human and non. Compassion is not often seen, yet seems to arrive in the heart of strangers. There is a ...   Read More

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