An Accidental Light

Publication Date: Feb 03, 2009

288 pp


List Price US $23.95
ISBN: 9781590513019

“Why didn’t you have your headlights on?” . . . I couldn’t tell him about the light in November. When it’s easy not to notice the first signs of dusk. When shapes suddenly lose their edges and a girl moving quickly from behind a stationary bus, moving in the fading light, in the rain, in the November gloom, may be a ghost, a spirit, something from the Underworld, a phantom from out of my own mind.”

On a quiet road just outside London, in the blue half-light of dusk, a fatal car accident takes the life of thirteen-year-old Laura Jenkins, and her death changes the lives of two families forever. For Jack Philips, a married police officer with two small daughters, the consequences of that evening behind the wheel will force him to reassess everything he loves and to confront long-buried secrets from his past. For Lisa Jenkins, the loss of her daughter seems unbearable. As she struggles to find the courage to rebuild her life, her husband grows ever more reclusive, and Laura’s presence continues to haunt her. Eventually, Lisa’s and Jack’s paths cross in surprising and shocking ways.

In this heartbreaking and redemptive novel, Elizabeth Diamond explores the ripple effects of a single moment of tragedy—the journey from guilt to peace, from vengeance to forgiveness, from sorrow to hope—and even, ultimately, to joy. An Accidental Light is a tender and deeply affecting story that is not easily forgotten.

Excerpt from An Accidental Light

There’s clock time where seconds mount up to minutes and minutes to hours. Where day changes to night and weeks build to months and months to a year, and the years play out on your face and in your thickening waist. The time most of us live in.
Then there’s the other sort. It has no limits. It reels you backwards without warning, spins you young again on a whim. It can be triggered by anything: a fragment of music, a scent on the air. Or a child moving in a blue school uniform in the rain. It claims you in dreams, on the borders of sleep, even in your waking moments when you think you’re safe.
A child moved out suddenly from the rear of a bus, ran in a blue smudge of uniform through the misted rain, moved out from that forward linear tick-tock time into the other, where she’s caught forever, like a broken leaf in a whirlpool current. I’ve seen her a thousand times. Running through the blue shadows in the rain. Stopped by a screech of brakes and my voice shouting. Stopped by the sudden boom of my heart.

Her name was Laura. I found that out later in the station. Bob Lees was on duty that night. He sat me down in the interview room, fetched me a coffee, and handed me a cigarette. I’d given up months ago but none of that mattered now–my old life wiped out now like a cloth wiping a smudge from glass.

Kirkus Reviews

“…matter-of-fact, precise prose and edgy characterizations…”

Publishers Weekly

“… a heartbreaking journey into the aftermath of tragedy.”

Curled Up with a Good Book

"Author Elizabeth Diamond beautifully moves between Jack and Lisa’s voices, exposing their layers of grief and loss in a story that seems to literally bleed with revenge and bittersweet hurt. The author digs deep into the interior lives of her two major players, exploring the redemptive power of loss and of love even as time ‘slips like sand through the sieve,’ bringing back the past."

Library Journal

"This first novel by British poet Diamond combines realistic themes with a suggestion of the paranormal…Diamond’s remarkable talent lies in the engaging immediacy of her characters’ voices: we find ourselves compelled by the mundane details of people pulling their lives together."

1. Consider what Diamond writes on page 154: “The right direction. How do we ever know what that is? We drive home from work one day, taking the usual route, and a kid runs out from behind a bus, and the right direction becomes the wrong one…You think you’re on one path, and then you’re on another. You’re lost. You may never find your way again.” What choices have Jack and Lisa made in shaping their adult life and how do these choices reflect their childhood experiences?

2. Lisa and Jack are two strangers linked by a sad twist of fate. Consider how something as arbitrary as running into the street at dusk can change everything. Examine chance and free will as it is portrayed in the book in that it is often not about the event but how you choose to deal with it.

3. The scent of gas triggers Jack’s memory of his mother’s suicide. Discuss memory, childhood trauma, and coping mechanisms, as they relate to events in the book.

4. Compare Jack’s experiences with his mother’s suicide with Lisa’s father passing away when she’s sixteen. How do they deal with abandonment? How are the relationships with their remaining relatives similar and different?

5. Lisa’s therapist speaks of the many stages of grief working toward peace, while Jack’s depression seems to come in waves, as trauma from his childhood mixes with his present crisis. Consider the different types of sadness that they suffer and how they manifest.

6. In his journal, Jack addresses his therapist, while Lisa writes to her dead daughter. What does this reflect about their coping mechanisms? About grief?

7. In comparison to Jack and Lisa’s form of coping with their grief, how does Derek deal with his emotions? How does Sam deal with the upset in their lives? Are her actions justified? Overall, consider how such life-changing events can bring people together or drive them apart. Compare Jack, Lisa, Derek, Sam and their reactions.

8. Forgiveness plays a major role in the grieving process in that the main characters must not only forgive each other for their actions, but themselves as well. How does forgiveness help Jack and Lisa move on with their lives? How do Derek and Sam’s actions fall within this theme? In the end, what does the novel say about one’s need to forgive?

9. In the book, the blue light of dusk recurs as a symbol for the divide between day and night, between sleep and wake, between sanity and insanity. How does the author use color to show the many shades of human emotion?

10. The book is set in England. Identify any cultural differences that you find relevant to the story, and how mental illness might be treated differently in other countries.

11. Laura appears in the same outfit — a pink anorak with a fur trimmed hood — to both Jack and Lisa. Can you explain this? Do you believe that her spirit physically manifests in these pages or is it just a coincidence that they both envision the same ghost?

12. How is Laura portrayed? Is she a ghost? Or could she be a physical manifestation of grief and trauma?

13. Consider the ending. Does Laura save Bethan’s life or does Bethan jump out of the way?