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"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." "In rural Arkansas, Buckley R. Pitank's world seemed plagued by disaster. Ashamed but protective of his obese mother,
"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." "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 each other, and to the families they've been running from for as long as they can remember.
“Most writers entertain the not-so-secret wish that at least portions of their prose will pop and zing with verbal electricity. But it’s difficult to construct a hook for your average dysfunctional-family story quite as illuminating as when the author herself, and also several of her characters, have actually been struck by lightning. Michele Young-Stone’s first novel blends both true and fictional accounts of cascading storms of the heart and the sky. . . . Death, art, ghosts, love and the search for redemption populate her pages as frequently as the ominous rumble of thunder.”
—Richmond Style 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—young, old, literate, and simple, all full of longing. What she does best is portray the incredulousness of the unlucky.”
"Each character in this startlingly mature debut novel, from Becca’s self-absorbed father and self-destructive mother to Buckley’s evangelical stepdad, is complicated, nuanced, and sympathetic. Young-Stone’s writing style is crystal clear and shot through with lightning-like flashes of description so vivid that readers might think that they are watching a movie. VERDICT: It’s not often that this reviewer regrets a book 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."
—Library Journal (starred review)
"Luminescent . . . Becca and Buckley’s parallel stories, as well as curiosity about how their paths finally converge, will keep the pages turning, while the complex, colorful characters, and the deep bonds that form between them in spite of and even because of the tragedies they survive, will live on in readers’ minds long after they reach the end of this powerful, beautiful novel."
—Booklist (starred review)
"The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors is a quirky, intelligent, funny and well-written book filled with characters so imperfect they look like you and me." —The Raleigh News Observer
"Vibrant, funny, complicated, magical, heartbreaking, electric. Michele Young-Stone’s debut novel The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors is all of this and more. I loved it! I’ve been waiting to read a book like this for years."
—Sheri Reynolds, bestselling author of A Gracious Plenty and The Sweet In-Between
"If you have anything else to do in your life, don’t open the cover of Michele Young-Stone’s The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors. You won’t be thinking about anything except Becca Burke’s amazing life for a very long time . . . "
—Jacquelyn Mitchard, New York Times bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean
"Yes, it’s a book about lightning, but it’s so much more. It’s about the interconnectedness of our stories, our seemingly lonely and individual sufferings. It’s about the strength of the human spirit. It’s about finding redemption where you least expect it. This book, like lightning itself, will take your breath away." Our State Magazine
Excerpted from The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone Copyright © 2010 by Michele Young-Stone. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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. 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.
Posted February 16, 2010
I was very much looking forward to reading this book, as lightning strike survivors is not a common subject to read about. What I got was a lot more.
The story follows two seemingly unrelated kids, Becca Burke and Buckley Pitank, as they navigate broken homes, adolescence, troubled adulthoods, and all sorts of bad decisions along the way. They do not know each other and spend most of the book miles apart. What links them, however, is that Becca is a lightning strike survivor and Buckley has lost loved ones to lightning strikes. Ultimately, these details will bring Becca and Buckley together, acknowledging the idea that it is indeed a small world.
Michele Young-Stone writes the lives of Becca and Buckley very thoroughly. Each story was fascinating in it's own way, rich with character and cause and effect from realistic situations. Unfortunately, I felt distracted by having to switch back and forth between lives, and instead was tempted to read one story all the way through and then return to read the other in it's entirety. I did enjoy the little excerpts from the Handbook itself. There is little actual happiness within the stories, making it an emotional read. Push all the way to the end and the reader may feel like a survivor themselves.
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Posted May 12, 2010
I Also Recommend:
Writers are told to 'write what they know' so it's no surprise to discover that Michele Young-Stone is a lightning strike survivor. She titled her first published novel The Handbook for Lightning Survivors, and it's an emotional powerhouse of a book.
Using the conceit of placing a 'book within a book', one of the main characters, Buckley, a young man, has written a non-fiction book titled The Handbook for Lightning Survivors. Parts of his book are sprinkled within the novel, which tells the story of Buckley, who has had brushes with lightning strikes, and Becca, who has been struck twice by lightning.
Becca was struck by lightning as a young child, but her parents didn't believe her because she did not appear to be harmed. When a photograph of Becca appears to have a halo of light around her, her mother starts to believe it may be true. She is struck again when she is teenager, but this time, her boyfriend witnesses the strike.
Becca loves her father, who leaves his wife Mary. Mary falls apart, drinking, taking pills, ignoring her daughter. Becca turns to creating art, and indiscriminate sex, to deal with her emotions.
Although the story is about Becca, an actual lightning strike survivor, Buckley is a survivor in a different manner. His obese mother marries a shady, lazy man, who mistreats Buckley in the name of 'toughening him up'. When Buckley's mom has had enough, she leaves her husband behind with her mother and starts a new life with Buckley far away.
They meet another type of survivor, Paddy John, a Vietnam war vet, who has more than a few problems. But he falls in love with Buckley's mom, and his courtship of her is tender and sweet. Their relationship, and Buckley with his mom's, is the heart of this moving story.
How can you not love a young boy, of whom is written,
Buckley wanted a lot of things, but at the top of his list was for his mother to be happy. It seemed to him that she was always sad. She was a good mom- never a mean word crossed her lips- but like Buckley, she seldom smiled. She was fat, and it was hard for Buckley when they went places to hear people snicker and know she heard it too.
Within the novel are parts of Buckley's book, mostly statistics and anecdotes from lightning strike survivors. One mantra that is repeated is
TREAT THE APPARENTLY DEAD FIRST. Most lightning strike fatalities are caused by cardiac arrest.
The importance of this advice becomes apparent by the end of the novel.
Stone-Young is a wonderful writer. She weaves Buckley's book and the novel together with skill, and her characters are complex and drawn with compassion. You feel that you know these people, and Buckley and Paddy John are two of my favorite characters in contemporary literature.
I look forward to Stone-Young's next effort; she has a talent for creating characters who stay in your heart long after you finish the book. It's also no surprise that this is a Shaye Areheart imprint; her imprint always means a quality book. It's a shame that her imprint is no more.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a NetGalley copy for review.
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Posted June 27, 2011
I absolutely loved this book, although I realize it may not be for everyone. There are two main voices, but there are a handful of others that come in contact with the two main ones who have short off-shoots of their own. As a reader, I connected with all of the characters - main and otherwise - because they had such honest voices. I think this book, at its core, is about the relationships and events that shape us into who we become as adults - both the good and the awful. And about persevering despite great loss. Unique writing style by Young-Stone and I can't wait for her next!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 5, 2010
I found this book to be quite different. I enjoyed some of the quirky and odd characters - not the kind of people I have come across in my real life, but that is kind of why I enjoyed it. It was slow at times, but ultimately the story line did pull it through!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 4, 2010
This is one of those books make me wish I had more time to read. A thoroughly engaging novel weaving together many stories but primarily focused on two characters, Becca and Buckley, whose lives are changed by encounters with lightning. Other reviewers have provided synopses, which I will not repeat, but I will add that the author has done a wonderful job of moving between multiple characters and jumping between years in their lives yet maintaining clarity for the reader. I look forward to the author's next story.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 27, 2010
I Also Recommend:
This novel is beautifully written and tension-filled.
Author Young-Stone creates a cast of broken characters desperately trying to mend themselves. Life grinds on and just when you think that something will go right for them, someone literally gets struck by lightning. This electric web binds together the protagonists, Becca and Buckley, even as it maims them.
Gorgeous and unsettling, this novel will give you goosebumps everytime a storm rolls in.
Posted July 9, 2010
Michele Young-Stone's first novel is delightful. Wonderful web of characters, compelling plot, prompting deeper contemplation...it's all there. Recommend highly to anyone who can identify with the power of lightning and appreciate the underlying currents of love and life coursing through all of us.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 18, 2010
Overall, I enjoyed The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors. Young-Stone's placement of excerpts from character Buckley R. Pitank's book for lightning strike survivors was clever, offered a nice visual break to the text, and gave context to some of the events in the novel.
For two reasons I would recommend the book only to those who truly love to read and have plenty of time to do so:
. The cast of characters is grossly oversized for the storyline
. It takes about one-third of the novel for the author to provide enough valuable information for the reader to feel engaged.
The positive is once it becomes clear that the plot is going to go somewhere, the storyline quickly becomes engrossing.
Young-Stone uses beautifully descriptive language. It is easy to visualize the characters, their surroundings, and Becca Burke's art.
The book is very well written; however, the ending is disappointing as it is too well packaged. Tying all of the ends neatly with a bow doesn't work well when the text is as dark as The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors.
FOR YA READERS
The novel's theme may be appealing to YA readers, so I will add the cautionary comment that Becca engages in gratuitous sex beginning at age 13. Other things parents of younger readers may want to be aware of are the subjects of suicide and substance abuse. Young-Stone does not present these topics as positive images; however, they are worth noting as areas for discussion with younger readers
Posted May 10, 2010
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Posted February 20, 2011
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Posted January 6, 2011
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Posted May 16, 2011
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Posted October 19, 2010
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