In a fit of pique, an eight year old girl wishes that her mother was dead, and blames herself when her mother does actually die that night. From then on, our unnamed narrator chooses a life of loneliness and isolation – while she has a job and sees people, she never gets close to them emotionally. Her brother persuades her to move to Florida, where he lives with his wife, and it is there that she is struck by lightning. However, she survives, albeit with some physical conditions brought on by the strike, and hears a story about a man who was struck by lightning, and who died for 40 minutes before coming back to life. She seeks out this man – Lazarus Jones – and discovers that there is fire inside him. Literally. He can set paper alight by breathing on it, and when the narrator has a relationship with him, he burns her when he holds and kisses her. Their relationship is obsessive and intense, but eventually they both reveal the secrets they keep hidden inside themselves.
Unfortunately, while this book is clearly well written, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. The narrator was unsympathetic and I almost disliked her; certainly I stopped really caring what happened to her. I didn’t feel the intensity of the relationship between her and Lazarus, and neither did I believe it. Maybe this was the wrong book at the wrong time for me, but I found elements of the story hard to ignore, or tedious. The narrator’s frequent references to fairy tales grated slightly, and I was unable to suspend disbelief at the more mystical elements of the book. However, on the plus side, the writing did flow easily and was very eloquent in places. There were also some characters in the book which were far more interesting and likeable, such as the narrator’s brother Ned, and her friend Renny. Overall however, this modern day fairytale left me underwhelmed.