Buy This Book: An Accidental Light

AN ACCIDENTAL LIGHT, Elizabeth Diamond’s riveting debut novel begins: A life can change in an instant. That’s all it takes. She gives us that much certainty. What is uncertain, what plays tricks is the light--road light--especially at evening. Anyone who drives at that hour can be fooled for an instant, can misjudge the shape, the potential for hazard. Jack Philips is driving home in such vague light when his instant comes; he isn’t sure of what he sees when Laura Jenkins, a thirteen-year-old girl, emerges quickly, ghost-like, from the blue-misted shadow of a parked bus into the street, not until he stops after his car strikes her. Kneeling beside her, he keeps his eyes on her face; her fingers are cold in his. The gleam of light in her eyes suggests the soul is yet uncertain of where it should be. Her mother, Lisa, is at work dealing with a customer when the accident happens, when her daughter lies dying in the rain, in the street. In a stranger’s grasp. Lisa Jenkins will think later how unreal it is to be at work and oblivious in the very same instant that your ordinary life and your child are leaving you. These people and this tragedy that leaves them stunned and gasping, that rips up their lives is posed in such real and heartrending terms. And even when Laura reappears to both Jack and Lisa, it seems natural; it shares a sensibility with Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones.

Elizabeth Diamond has drawn the characters in this novel, Lisa and Jack and their spouses, the girl, Laura, with such precision and care, and such honesty, they seem familiar, more like truth than fiction. And while the story’s plot spins off this terrible calamity, the story itself is one of forgiveness, of redemption and found courage. The surprise is the suspense and the bit of magical realism. Both elements are so deftly woven through the pages you are scarcely aware of them, yet you’re caught up, and it becomes truly riveting when Jack and Lisa’s paths cross in the most astonishing twist, but again, the narrative is unfolded with such skill, you don’t question the reality. I wasn’t in the least surprised to learn Elizabeth Diamond is also a poet. She has a gift with language. In fact, AN ACCIDENTAL LIGHT has everything a good book should have: an absorbing storyline and deeply-layered characters, all wrapped up in a flow of beautiful writing. It’s just a great read.


Colleen said…
This sounds like a heartrending but excellent read. And I love that cover!
Same here--love the cover, and anything that even remotely resembles Sebold gets my notice. Thanks, Barbara!

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