I wept while reading the final chapter.
The first-person protagonist, in a spat with Mom on Mom’s 30th birthday, wishes her dead. Mom’s demise that night defines the eight-year-old girl. She will express no love, no affection. She will listen only, go along. She embraces death, removing herself from emotional investment. After her grandmother passes away, her brother, now a meteorologist living in Florida, persuades her to come south to live near him. In the heart of lightning country, she is struck, while swatting flies inside her small home. She loses the ability to see red and is largely paralyzed on one side.
The night of Mom’s mishap was in an icy January. Ice defines her subsequently. She remains cold, inert to the life around her. After being struck by lightning, her altered perception broadens her iciness in that it removes much of life from what she can even perceive. She sees grays where everyone else sees red. Life has literally been drained from what she can see.
The theme of Fairy Tales, of magic permeates the story. Lazarus Jones was struck by lightning and the image of an old man was fused onto his skin. The protagonist believes that wishing her mother dead caused it to happen. One wonders whether a wounded mole would grant wishes if one only saved him. Another lightning strike victim has gold fused into his very skin.
This is a magical story in at least two ways. It works magical themes throughout, and rises like a magical being from the death-fixation that links the entire story to a burst of life at the end. I loved it. In fact it is one of the best things I have read in years. Major recommendation.
You had to do the thing you were most afraid of, didn’t you? In every fairy tale the right was the difficult path, the one that led over boulders, through brambles, across a field of fire. I took a step forward and looped my arms around Lazarus Jones’ neck so I could be near him. Every person had a secret, this was mine.; I couldn’t begin anything that remotely resembled life until I understood death.
Lazarus Jones smelled like sulfur. People with sense run away from fire, but not me.
The logic of fairy tales was that there was no logic: bad things happened to the innocent, children were set out in the woods by their parents, fear walked hand in hand with experience, a wish spoke aloud could make it so.