I found Lightning a few years ago at a garage sale. It’s an ancient hardcover (okay, maybe not ancient, but it’s older than I am) with a tattered cover and yellowing pages. I’m pretty sure I got it for only a dollar, but after having read it three times, I can definitely say it’s worth much more than that!
Laura Shane’s life began during a freak lightning storm in January, 1955. It is not destined to be an easy life; her birth is difficult, and her mother does not survive. However, Laura is a healthy and exceptionally beautiful little girl, and is loved dearly by her father, who raises her. Eight years later, a mysterious man saves them from a gunman who holds up Bob’s corner grocery, and tells Laura to think of him as her “special guardian.” In 1967, when Bob dies of a heart attack, Laura sees her special guardian again at his funeral, but he disappears before she can talk to him.
Unbeknownst to Laura, another man named Kokoshka is watching her, wondering what makes her so special to Stefan, her guardian. But what does Kokoshka want with Stefan? And above all, what does Stefan want with Laura?
Lightning is one of those books that takes me only about two days to finish because I get so wrapped up in the suspense, even though I already know what happens. I love Laura as the protagonist, even though she seems wildly unrealistic—I’m pretty sure no twelve-year-old would be as well-adjusted as she is after losing so many people she loves. Her son, too, at eight years old, can grasp concepts that the adults can’t. And while I understand how that could maybe be the case in some situations, it probably wouldn’t be with something as complicated as what they’re dealing with (which I won’t give away, but you’ll understand if you read it).
I know I probably shouldn’t complain about things being unrealistic when I generally prefer horror and thriller fiction above most other genres. The thing with that, though, is that suspension of disbelief is much easier to accomplish when the characters are believable, and that’s what I love about some of Koontz’s other books, like Watchers, and almost all of Stephen King’s novels. Giving people flaws—which, sometimes, Koontz seems reluctant to do—is what makes them so realistically human. And I understand that sometimes writers can love their own characters so much that they want to make absolutely sure that readers love them too, but I think readers have to be trusted to make their own decisions.
Regardless, I still love Lightning. I’ve already read it three times, and I’m sure I’ll read it again, and I think you should too!
Are there any characters like that who you’ve loved despite their flaws? What about wildly unrealistic, perfect characters who you’ve loved like you were supposed to—or, perhaps, that you found too unrealistic to like?by