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An Accidental Light    by Elizabeth Diamond order for
Accidental Light
by Elizabeth Diamond
Order:  USA  Can
Other Press, 2009 (2009)
* * *   Reviewed by Joan Burton

Jack Philips life is about to change in an instant and he has no idea of the magnitude that the change will encompass. It is a dreary November day, late afternoon, and Jack - a thirty-four year old police officer, married and with two young daughters - is heading home. Thirteen-year-old Laura Jenkins gets off the bus at her stop and runs across the street directly into the path of Jack's car. She came out of nowhere and, with no time to brake, Jack hits her. Numb with grief and fear, Jack tries to comfort her until the ambulance arrives, but she does not survive.

Jack's life begins to unravel even though the death was ruled accidental. He cannot concentrate on his job and eventually takes sick leave. He feels empty and lost and seeks out the guidance of a counselor. His marriage begins to break down as he withdraws from life, and he finds himself alone when his wife and daughters move out. Plagued by nightmares, Jack starts to see Laura's ghost in front of his house and wonders if his imagination is playing tricks on him. While in therapy Jack discusses the death of his mother and is encouraged to reconnect with the aunt and uncle who raised him. By opening up the door to his past, Jack is astonished to find a family he never knew existed.

Laura's mother, Lisa Jenkins, also has visits from her daughter. She feels Laura is trying to relay a message to her. Her husband has withdrawn from her and she finds the pain of losing her only child unbearable. She seeks out a psychic, on the advice of a friend, and feels comforted by what she is told. Soon Lisa leaves her husband and tries to slowly rebuild her life by making amends with her elderly mother and finding a full time job.

An Accidental Light is told in the alternating voices of Jack and Lisa. We learn of their pasts and are surprised by how they are brought together through Laura's death. Though each struggles with guilt, they end up seeking peace and are given the gift of a new life. This is a beautiful debut from Elizabeth Diamond, a story that will stay with you after the last page.

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