Reading guide for The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone

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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
    Paperback:
    Apr 2011, 384 pages

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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 of God?

  6. Considering that Becca once saw roses in pork rinds, how did her father affect her view of the world? How did she regain a more idealistic view of the world?

  7. Why do you think certain chapters like St. Patrick’s Day were written in the present tense?  What might be the significance?

  8. 8. Do you think Rowan Burke got what was coming to him? Do you think Becca should give him a second chance? Why or why not?

  9. Mary Wickle Burke thinks, It’s never too late. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Explain.

  10. In what ways does Buckley change while in Galveston? What might be the reasons for these changes?

  11. In what ways does Becca change while in New York? Discuss her transformation from art student to pharmacy clerk.

  12. After going to dinner with her father in New York, Becca goes to Tripp’s apartment and discovers, “…I can’t feel anything.”  What is the significance of being numb?  What do you think she finally comes to understand?

  13. What is the significance of The Thin Man? How did the shooting death of Carmine Damici and Buckley’s subsequent actions change Buckley’s future/destiny?

  14. There are multiple turning points in THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS. Discuss how each of the following events affected the character for good or ill.
    * Bo’s death
    * Claire’s suicide attempt
    * Patty-Cake’s appearance at Barnacle Bob’s
    * Abigail’s death
    * Buckley’s friendship with Mia
    * Buckley lying to the police

  15. The relationships between parents and children play major roles in the novel. Discuss the relationships between the two main characters and their parents.  In what ways was Rowan an absent father? Do you think Mary was an absent mother? What about Edna and Winter? Through Mary, Becca and Buckley, the novel expresses that blaming one’s parents won’t solve a person’s problems. Instead, the resentment creates more problems. Discuss this message.  How difficult is it to let go of blame?

  16. Throughout the novel, the narrator occasionally draws attention to herself.  For example, the narrator states:  If you’ve never seen the ocean, board a plane, train, bus or car and go, now, today.  If you’ve seen the ocean and walked a sandy beach or rocky cliff, you’ll be familiar with the ocean’s powers, how it washes things away;…  What do you think about this technique?  What purpose might it serve?

  17. In what ways were Becca and Buckley similar? In what ways were they different? How did they function as foils for each other, and do you think that they managed to save the other? How?

  18. How did The Handbook excerpts contribute to each character’s story and their joint story? Were there any excerpts in particular that resonated with you? Discuss their importance.

  19. If you had to designate one main character for this book, who would it be, Becca or Buckley? Why?

  20. One major theme in the novel is that whether we believe in God or not, we as human beings are connected, having the ability to save one another. The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors is an epic novel taking place in multiple locations and spanning decades. How did the book’s epic nature contribute or detract from this particular theme of connectedness?

  21. Another theme is salvation through art. Where throughout the book was this particular theme present? Discuss Colin’s work with the children’s art from Terezin and Anya in relationship to this theme.

  22. Since completing the novel, the author has been “struck” by the number of people, just like her, who have been affected by lightning. Do you know of anyone who’s been a lightning strike victim? Discuss how actual victims’ stories you’re familiar with compare to Becca and Buckley’s experiences.

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Broadway Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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