Accidental Light

Accidental Light

5.0 1
by Elizabeth Diamond
     
 

“Why didn’t you have your headlights on?” . . . I couldn’t tell him about the light in November. When it’s easy not to notice the first signs of dusk. When shapes suddenly lose their edges and a girl moving quickly from behind a stationary bus, moving in the fading light, in the rain, in the November gloom, may be a ghost, a spirit,

Overview

“Why didn’t you have your headlights on?” . . . I couldn’t tell him about the light in November. When it’s easy not to notice the first signs of dusk. When shapes suddenly lose their edges and a girl moving quickly from behind a stationary bus, moving in the fading light, in the rain, in the November gloom, may be a ghost, a spirit, something from the Underworld, a phantom from out of my own mind.”

On a quiet road just outside London, in the blue half-light of dusk, a fatal car accident takes the life of thirteen-year-old Laura Jenkins, and her death changes the lives of two families forever. For Jack Philips, a married police officer with two small daughters, the consequences of that evening behind the wheel will force him to reassess everything he loves and to confront long-buried secrets from his past. For Lisa Jenkins, the loss of her daughter seems unbearable. As she struggles to find the courage to rebuild her life, her husband grows ever more reclusive, and Laura’s presence continues to haunt her. Eventually, Lisa’s and Jack’s paths cross in surprising and shocking ways.

In this heartbreaking and redemptive novel, Elizabeth Diamond explores the ripple effects of a single moment of tragedy—the journey from guilt to peace, from vengeance to forgiveness, from sorrow to hope—and even, ultimately, to joy. An Accidental Light is a tender and deeply affecting story that is not easily forgotten.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Kirkus Reviews

“…matter-of-fact, precise prose and edgy characterizations…”

Publishers Weekly

“… a heartbreaking journey into the aftermath of tragedy.”

Curled Up with a Good Book

"Author Elizabeth Diamond beautifully moves between Jack and Lisa’s voices, exposing their layers of grief and loss in a story that seems to literally bleed with revenge and bittersweet hurt. The author digs deep into the interior lives of her two major players, exploring the redemptive power of loss and of love even as time 'slips like sand through the sieve,' bringing back the past."

Library Journal

"This first novel by British poet Diamond combines realistic themes with a suggestion of the paranormal...Diamond's remarkable talent lies in the engaging immediacy of her characters' voices: we find ourselves compelled by the mundane details of people pulling their lives together."

Publishers Weekly

Diamond's debut is a heartbreaking journey into the aftermath of tragedy. Jack Philips is driving home one night outside of London when he strikes and kills 13-year-old Laura Jenkins. With two small daughters of his own, police officer Jack is devastated, even though the death is ruled accidental. As he struggles to put his life back together, Jack quits his job and his marriage falls apart. He also spots Laura's father, Derek, lurking around his house, accompanied by Laura's ghost. The only other person that sees this ghost is Laura's mother, Lisa, who, crushed by her daughter's death, also undergoes some unexpected changes, from consulting a psychic to asking for a divorce from her increasingly distant husband. Jack and Lisa share narration, though the two characters' voices become almost indistinguishable as they face similar struggles and try to figure out what Laura's ghost is trying to tell them. The tragedies, large and small, continue at a relentless pace, and Diamond takes pains to make palpable the full weight of grief and guilt. (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

This first novel by British poet Diamond combines realistic themes with a suggestion of the paranormal. Young police officer Jack Phillips strikes and kills 13-year-old schoolgirl Laura Jenkins when she runs in front of his car on a rainy November evening. The incident is ruled an accident, but Jack is haunted by the event-quite literally, as he begins "seeing" the girl outside his house. Jack's life falls apart: he is unable to work, he undergoes counseling, and his marriage disintegrates even as he reconnects with his long-lost father. On a parallel track, Lisa Jenkins also sees her daughter's ghost, eventually coming to believe that Jack is in trouble and needs her help in some way. Laura's ghostly presence is pivotal, but this is not a supernatural tale; instead, the realistic depiction of grieving families contrasts with Laura's elusive appearances, so the reader isn't sure if the sightings are real or a result of grief's magical thinking. Diamond's remarkable talent lies in the engaging immediacy of her characters' voices: we find ourselves compelled by the mundane details of people pulling their lives together. Recommended for all fiction collections.
—Reba Leiding

Kirkus Reviews
Tracing the aftermath of a child's accidental death, first-time British novelist Diamond combines elements of a ghost story with those of a psychological thriller. Policeman Jack Philips fatally strikes Laura Jenkins with his car when the child runs into the street from behind a bus. Married with two young daughters, Jack feels overwhelming guilt although he is fully exonerated at the inquest. He begins to see Laura's ghost occasionally. On medical leave, he explores with a sympathetic counselor how his guilt over Laura relates to emotional pain he's tamped down for years concerning his mother's suicide when he was a young child. But he cannot share his feelings with his wife Sam, and their marriage collapses around the time he decides to leave the police department. Meanwhile, Laura's distraught mother Lisa also sees Laura's ghost. She and Laura's father Derek have already drifted apart in their marriage, sleeping in separate bedrooms for years. Now Laura's death sends them down very different paths. Derek becomes obsessed with news reports of children killed in driving accidents and secretly stalks Jack. Lisa is drawn to spiritual remedies. She goes to a tarot reader and to a medium, who not only sees Laura but Lisa's father, who died of a heart attack when Lisa was 14. Like Jack, Lisa finds herself dealing with both her present and past sense of loss. Also like Jack, she reconnects with her surviving parent. Attending a spiritualist church, Lisa is told that Laura is worried about Jack. After she invites Derek (whose inner life, like Sam's, remains mostly unexplored) to a sad, touchingly rendered dinner, Lisa seeks out Jack, now living alone, though still a devoted dad. When Derekattempts a desperate act of revenge, it is thwarted by Laura's ghost. With matter-of-fact, precise prose and edgy characterizations, Diamond shows strong potential despite the spiritual gobbledygook that casts a phony redemptive shadow.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590513019
Publisher:
Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
02/03/2009
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

There’s clock time where seconds mount up to minutes and minutes to hours. Where day changes to night and weeks build to months and months to a year, and the years play out on your face and in your thickening waist. The time most of us live in.
Then there’s the other sort. It has no limits. It reels you backwards without warning, spins you young again on a whim. It can be triggered by anything: a fragment of music, a scent on the air. Or a child moving in a blue school uniform in the rain. It claims you in dreams, on the borders of sleep, even in your waking moments when you think you’re safe.
A child moved out suddenly from the rear of a bus, ran in a blue smudge of uniform through the misted rain, moved out from that forward linear tick-tock time into the other, where she’s caught forever, like a broken leaf in a whirlpool current. I’ve seen her a thousand times. Running through the blue shadows in the rain. Stopped by a screech of brakes and my voice shouting. Stopped by the sudden boom of my heart.

Her name was Laura. I found that out later in the station. Bob Lees was on duty that night. He sat me down in the interview room, fetched me a coffee, and handed me a cigarette. I’d given up months ago but none of that mattered now–my old life wiped out now like a cloth wiping a smudge from glass.

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Diamond

Elizabeth Diamond lives in Devon, England. An Accidental Light is her first novel, for which she received a British Arts Council grant. She has just finished her second novel.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Accidental Light 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
eak321 More than 1 year ago
The death of one person can change another person's life. The death of a child can change the lives of that child's parents. In this novel by Elizabeth Diamond, the lives of two families are forever changed when the man from one family accidentally hits and kills the daughter of the other. And while, yes, it is a sad, sad moment, it's also the spark that ignites both couples to finally start living and do what makes them happy instead of remaining stagnant. The story takes place in England, but the story transcends international borders. It could take place in any "Western" country or U.S. state. In fact, I didn't realize where it actually took place for several chapters when Diamond started using British colloquialisms. Diamond's writing is very conversational and easy to read. I quickly breezed through the novel during Christmas vacation and was never bored. Her descriptions and character development were wonderful. The only part that felt jarring to me was the novel's first sudden change in point of view. The first few chapters were told from the point of view of Jack, the man who accidentally hit and killed Laura, the little girl, one day while driving home because she ran out from behind a bus and he didn't have time to stop. He tells his story to his psychiatrist and we, the readers, are his psychiatrist. Later, the story's point of view shifts without warning. Suddenly, we're being told the story from the point of view of Lisa, the girl's mother, whom we haven't even met yet. She's telling her story to her deceased daughter, Laura. We, the readers, substitute for Laura. Once you understand whose point of view each particular chapter is, the confusion dissipates. All in all, I thought this was a very powerful and well-written dramatic novel about people's ability to cope with loss. I enjoyed it as much as the similarly themed The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and The Bright Forever by Lee Martin. I look forward to reading more from Elizabeth Diamond.