Reach & Read: Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors

The Handbook for Lightening Strike Survivors By Michelle Young-Stone

This novel is MYS’s first novel following the lives of Becca Burke and Buckley Pitank through the unexpected intersections with Abigail Pitank, The Burkes, The Reverend, Patty Cake, Paddy John, Apple Pie, Joan Holt, Colin and Carrie (to just name a few). Despite what may look like a lot of characters, MYS does a fantastic job developing them into people and narrating the story. While many books are narrated by one character either for the whole book or section, there are instances here where one chapter switches between character’s narrations but it is seamless.

According to NOAA, in 2012, “there were 28 lightning fatalities, 2 more than the 2011 total of 26. The 2012 number still is well below the 10-year average of 37 fatalities. Florida had the misfortune to number the most victims with 5 fatalities […] In 2012, the most dangerous place to be was outside doing chores, walking or engaging in other non-team sports where 12 people died (43%). The next most dangerous place was under a tree where 11 deaths (39%) occurred. Almost 8 times as many males, 25 (89%), as females, 3 (11%), were killed by lightning. The hardest hit age ranges were tweens and teens and adults aged 40-59 […].”

So, is there really a nonfiction handbook out there? Yes, quite a few actually NOAA has some information and The Dr. Lightening Show Victim episode is pretty darn informative if not just entertaining (a must view) NOAA also has a roster of strike survivors, their stories, and while not as good as this book, make the whole thing very real. There is an international support group LSESSI, that has a bookstore full of publications cataloguing, stories, clinical care, study results and guides for the after-strike life. is also a really informative site and houses many intriguing videos, on in particular about the DIFFERENCES between lightening and high voltage electricity survival (guess which one is more favorable to life?) with a watermelon as the test dummy and an illustration of the different kinds of lightening and impact on life. Leon the Lion has a safety quiz for you too.

Enough geeking out for now …. I still like Buckley’s advice to “treat the apparently dead first”.

While lightening is the ‘tie that binds’, as so many other reviews have commented, it is about people, relationships and the small world we live in. Every time I use that phrase I am reminded of signing the classic church hymn ‘Blessed Be the Ties that Bind” at the close of church. So I investigated this memory a little more under the construct of this book review.

First – The Lyrics: Blessed Be the Tie that Binds

Blessed be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like that to that above.

Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one
Our comforts and our cares.

We share each other’s woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.

When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.

This glorious hope revives
Our courage by the way;
While each in expectation lives,
And longs to see the day.

From sorrow, toil and pain,
And sin, we shall be free,
And perfect love and friendship reign
Through all eternity.

Second – The history. This song is well fixed in the hymnal history books, written in 1782 by a minister leaving his parish, and experiencing a resurgence in the 1940s as part of the soundtrack of Our Town, the musical.

Lastly – Bringing it all home. The hymn obviously refers to the tie with God. But if you squint just a little, it is really about that which makes us human and how we all share so many connections, more alike than we may realize or want to admit. This brings me back to the book, Handbook for Lightening Strike Survivors, where the ties beyond the title include a desire to be loved, family, approval from others, reward to be gained from risk and perseverance (90% of LS victims survive). Buckley shares a key piece of wisdom “Don’t feel guilty. Lightning is random. Don’t feel embarrassed. Don’t feel afraid. You are no closer to death than anyone else. You are a survivor.”  We can all be survivors, it is just up to you to figure out how you are going to survive and thrive.

Do you have or know someone with a lightning strike story? I don’t, although the author is a survivor. I do know that I miss having a good thunder and lightning storm now that I live in Seattle. And I am now wiser about how to be safe… Thanks Leon! When thunder roars, go in doors (and don’t use a phone with a cord)!


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