Excerpt from The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors

A Novel

by Michele Young-Stone

The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2010, 384 pages
    Apr 2011, 384 pages

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Print Excerpt

90% of lightning strike victims survive.

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 long as you let the caulk dry. They were here at the beach, weren't they? There was plenty of time to let that stuff dry. At home, Becca would mess it up, running the bathwater too soon, but here, she had hope. Here, she spotted a live fish with a fanlike tail, its gills opening and shutting, silver window blinds. Maybe the fish-on-the-sand happened to you or to someone you knew, but for Becca, it cemented her belief that anything is possible. She carried the fish through Atlantic surf, watching it swim away, running to tell her parents she had saved a life.

. . . out of water

Buckley loved everything about his mother, from the strawberry bumps on her legs where she dry- shaved with her Gillette to the way her black hair knotted at the nape of her neck. When the mean boys, the ones with fathers who taught them to fight before they could walk, jumped him from behind or from the front, Buckley counted himself a survivor. Knocked hard to the dirt, he got back up. It had everything to do with his mother. She was there for him, and he’d always be there for her. He could run fast.

It seemed that he was always running from someone stronger, bigger, and meaner— but not faster, and that was a very good thing. Today he was tired of running. The angry boys called, “Bastard!” That word didn’t touch him anymore. He’d heard it so often, it’d lost its meaning. He walked, hearing footsteps at his heels and
falling to the dirt. Maybe he needed a beating. Covering his head with his hands, he felt the blows to his ribs and legs. Always protect the head. He breathed in the dirt.

Much later, when he was sixteen, he met Clementine. She smelled like dirt too. Like the earth. Like he could bury his face there between chin and collarbone and be protected. Maybe that’s why he loved her.

. . .

When the beating was over, the bullies toed dirt on Buckley’s backside and touted, “Crybaby.” As they left, he struggled to his feet.

The thing was, he didn’t cry. Not then. Hardly ever. They could’ve kicked and punched until his ribs cracked and his lip split. It didn’t make a difference. He wouldn’t have cried for them. Maybe that was part of what was wrong with him. He was eleven years old, unable to cry, trying not to run from the world.

[ 1 ]

Lightning, 1977

The wind shifted and Becca stopped running. Her dad was taking her for a chocolate-dipped soft serve, but first she needed a bath. He wouldn't be seen with her this way. Her knee, bloody from tripping over a knobby root during hide-and-seek, had that sticky-tight feeling, and the other knee, scraped from tumbling on the sidewalk, burned. She needed to be more careful. How many times had her dad told her "Stop picking those scabs or you will scar, and scars last forever"?

Excerpted from The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone. Copyright © 2010 by Michele Young-Stone. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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