Long time, no book?  Not quite. In truth I’ve read a few books these past weeks and I’m just behind in reviewing them because I’ve been busy moving across several states! I’m back in South Carolina now, although I seem to have brought the northern weather with me. Brrr!!

Today’s review has to do with weather phenomena, too. The book is The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors, written by Michele Young-Stone. I picked it up out of the new books section at the local library based solely on its title. How could you walk by this one? I just had to give it a chance. One thing that I found especially, er, striking about this book (do-do tchhh) was the fact that the writer herself was struck by lightning once. Well, they do say to write what you know!

The story revolves around two central characters, Buckley and Becca, and their respective stories. Many writers attempt the format of taking two separate characters with completely separate lives and having their paths intertwine eventually seemingly by the sheer will of the universe. I’ve read several books where this device falls a little flat, but Young-Stone does it quite skillfully, with the characters’ lives brushing against each other without their knowledge of it, splitting apart, and coming together again. The chapters jump around in time and place, with events in their lives occurring in a respectively linear path, but the plot as a whole is not chronological. Buckley is a bit older than Becca, and so his story begins quite a bit earlier in time.

Buckley and Becca are both something of underdogs, and I found myself rooting for both of them. Both of their lives are drastically altered by lightning strikes, whether the bolt hit them or someone close to them. Buckley loses someone in a tragic freak lightning strike (although really, pretty much all lightning strike accidents would be classified as “freak accidents,” right?) and it is an event that he is never able to quite overcome. This leads him to write “The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors,” in an effort to boost awareness of the dangers of lightning and prevent any more tragedies from occurring. Becca herself is struck when she is very young, although no one believes her. She witnesses a fatal lightning strike and then years later is struck again. The two characters’ lives take them all over the eastern United States, from Galveston to the Outer Banks to New York City, and it doesn’t seem likely that they will ever meet even though a kind of six-degrees thing begins to develop. Finally, they do meet, but it is not monumental: it’s not a sappy, overblown Hollywood “the star-crossed lovers finally meet” type of encounter. It’s not a love story at all, which I appreciated– I think too many books become love stories when they have the potential to make a different statement. Anyway, they meet and then part, and then they do not meet again for quite some time.

The book flows at a good pace, giving plenty of time for each character’s story to develop. The reader really gets to know all of the characters that are introduced, as Young-Stone dives into the back story of each and every one. Her knowledge of people and their motives, reactions, and emotions is expert. She is also good at springing unexpected twists on the reader, as I was surprised at a couple of points. Not so surprise that I found the story unrealistic, just enough surprise that it created interest. These turns in events reflect the random-yet-not-random patterns of lightning strikes, in my opinion, like how people from their pasts “coincidentally” bump into each other in some way or another.

Bottom line: Well worth the read.