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Lightning - Felicity Volk

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Amid the chaos of sweeping bushfires, Persia gives birth alone at home with tragic consequences. Traumatised and grieving, she travels north, and encounters Ahmed, a refugee fleeing deportation and his past in Pakistan.

So begins a road trip to the dead heart of Australia, a journey that transcends the limits of ordinary experience. In Persia and Ahmed's world, ancient winds wreak havoc across generations, lightning ignites flames that both destroy and rejuvenate, and water drowns then delivers. Hearts break, days are leavened with loss, laughter kills and cinnamon preserves.

Lightning is an odyssey across continents and centuries that explores identity and connection, and our yearning to reveal ourselves even when cloaked in crippling grief. A glorious feat of magic realism, and a moving meditation on finding hope in the rubble of our lives,Lightning celebrates the way our stories and their telling keep us alive when all else is pulling us under.

About the Author

Felicity Volk studied English literature and law at the University of Queensland before joining Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. After diplomatic postings in Bangladesh and Laos, and following the birth of her two daughters, she began writing for publication. With fellowships from the Eleanor Dark Foundation (Varuna – the Writers' Centre) and a grant from the ACT Government, Felicity wrote a collection of short stories – several of which have won awards – and her first novel, Lightning. Based in Canberra, Felicity is working on her second novel.


Exceptional writing


In simplest terms, Lightning, the debut novel of Felicity Volk, is the story of two quietly desperate people thrown together by chance, each bearing wounds of a personal tragedy, the sort that remain ever fresh. The story evolves into an on-the-road tale where the destination is vague for both Ahmed, an illegal Pakistani refugee, and Persia, a pathologist and chronic loner. What they are seeking is a place to rest, or is it a place to end? Early on, we briefly meet a voluptuous and ebullient Aborigine, Salome, who befriended Persia when both were pathology students, and who splits the world into two groups: the hanger-onners and the letter-goers. She soon divines and defines the key element of Persia's persona - the quintessential letter-goer: through Salome we learn that Persia has yet to overcome her resistance to lasting attachments. On such a voyage, randomness is the norm. Along the way the couple encounter several characters who provide brilliant cameos: a hefty Italian widow who runs a campground in the middle of nowhere and carries on soliloquies with her late husband. There is a truckie, wrangling a Kenworth with an "Alice in Wonderland" carnival ride as his cargo, who garrulously narrates the adolescent wooing of his wife years ago, then becomes gently poetic as the loneliness of the road at the twilight hour approaches. Ms. Volk is a fresh literary voice whose writing has the power to clarify and focus our lives through her characters. Her gift is to use language to create memorable metaphors, startling in their originality. One example of many - Persia, her heroine, plants a daphne bush by the entry of a lover's dwelling so comings and goings in spring are richly perfumed. After they split, she returns surreptitiously at night to water the bush and one evening finds it ripped out: "the hollow it occupied gaped like Munch's scream." The book is replete with the stories we tell about ourselves and the stories we invent to try to make sense of our lives, especially those parts that haven't worked out so well. Stories told with hurt, compassion, anger, poignancy and wit. It may seem petty to seek a moral in a story so multi-layered and filled with insights into the human experience, but I think there is one. When bearing the unhealed wound of a personal tragedy, the way - perhaps the only way - to stanch the bleeding is to discern when tragedy is borne by someone else, and then find a way to alleviate that suffering. Heal another, heal oneself. Lightning is a remarkable achievement. Felicity Volk is presently Advisor to the Global Ambassador for Women and Girls in the Australian foreign service. As befits a career diplomat, she has an extraordinary command of language, an intuitive proclivity for metaphor and a keen talent for rendering nuance and subtlety. The reader should be prepared to pay attention, and will be well rewarded for it.

Middleton WI


Remarkable road trip


Lightning is a beautifully crafted novel and an impressive debut from Volk. I would expect that it will be one to receive the attention of the 2013 Miles Franklin or Stella Award committee's.

Taree, AU



5.0 2


"Stories are all we human beings are... Every time we open our mouths we are telling stories. And in the way we breathe and what we eat and when we are silent and when we find our tongues and how we move and when we pause and when we carry on. In all these ways we are telling our stories." p178 Lightning by debut Australian author Felicity Volk is a compelling, lyrical journey of two strangers as they travel from New South Wales to Alice Springs. It explores identity, loss, grief and the healing that comes from discovering a connection to the past, present and future. Persia has given birth at home to a stillborn daughter during the devastating Canberra bush fires ignited by lightning in 2003. As emotionally razed as the landscape around her, Persia flees with her nameless child swaddled in a suitcase. Stranded in Grafton with no real destination in mind, she accepts the offer of a ride from Ahmed, a refugee with his own secret baggage, on his way to Alice Springs. Lightning is not only the story of Persia and Ahmed but also the people they meet, the land they travel, of strangers and ancestors. Through wind, fire, earth and water, stories of life and death are told and shared and lived. The stories Ahmed tells are inspired by the names of the towns the pair travel through on their journey to Alice Springs. Grafton leads to a tale of a grieving man who sews a patch of his dead lover's skin to his own so that he may always keep some part of her with him, Bald Nob the story of the death and rebirth of love, while Tenterfield inspires a tale of a 'tented field' that absorbs the grief of a young woman. How much truth or fiction each story holds is unknowable, though each holds at least some of both. It is some time before Persia shares her own stories with Ahmed, of her life, of her family, of her daughter. Her own journey of grief is a private one and for Persia, naming it will mean she has begun to let go when she so desperately wants to hold on. Lightning is a beautifully crafted novel and an impressive debut from Volk. I would expect that it will be one to receive the attention of the 2013 Miles Franklin or Stella Award committee's.

ISBN: 9781742612157
ISBN-10: 1742612156
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 400
Published: 1st July 2013
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 23.2 x 15.5  x 3.1
Weight (kg): 0.51
Edition Number: 1

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