Lightning Song

Nordan, Lewis

Published by Algonquin Books, 1998
ISBN 10: 1565122208 / ISBN 13: 9781565122208
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Synopsis: Leroy Dearman is twelve, and he lives on a llama farm in Mississippi. Life is perfect. It's true that his grandfather just died in the attic and that wild dogs kill a baby llama now and then, and it's true that one little sister curses him and the other one wets her pants. But up to the day Uncle Harris moves in, life looks like it's right out of a Walt Disney movie. No wonder the llamas greet each morning with a song. Uncle Harris arrives in a sports car, full of funny stories and new ideas. He manages to persuade Leroy's straitlaced parents to join him for cocktails in the evening. He sets up a pretty grand bachelor pad in the Dearman attic, with a telephone, a TV set, and a stack of Playboy magazines. He is, you might say, Romance itself. Once Uncle Harris moves in, life on the llama farm takes on an entirely different flavor. Leroy discovers those magazines. Electricity fills the Dearman house. Equilibrium tilts, conversation trails off, the atmospheric pressure twists--and lightning strikes. Leroy starts seeing things he's never seen before, like the very gifted baton-twirling teacher, and his world changes forever. Not since PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT has a novel looked so directly, hilariously, and bittersweetly at the heartbreak of puberty.

Review: Every time lightning strikes in Lewis Nordan's novel, strange things happen. Lightning strikes, and an old man dies; lightning strikes again and he comes back to life; love affairs begin and end amid the perilous crackle of electrical storms. Young Leroy Dearman inhabits a flat, Mississippi landscape punctuated by singing llamas, wild dogs, and his own eccentric family members: a grandfather who drinks poison, a mother obsessed with the kidnapped Italian politician Aldo Moro, an uncle who seduces his mother, and a father infatuated with an Indian maiden. Leroy himself is tortured by erotic fantasies involving a buxom high school baton twirler. His torment is hardly eased when he discovers his uncle's cache of skin magazines. When the baton-twirling Circe finally makes Leroy's dreams come true lightning strikes.

All of this could become a cartoon version of rural Southern life in the hands of a less accomplished writer. But Lewis Nordan hits all the right notes in Lightning Song, delving beneath surface eccentricity to expose the loneliness, the confusion, and the longing for love that dwell in the heart of every character. Funny and sad, its atmosphere as emotionally charged as the air just before a thunderstorm, Lightning Song is a rare and wonderful read.

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Lightning Song
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: 1998
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Used: Good

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