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Approaching the Speed of Light    by Victoria Lustbader order for
Approaching the Speed of Light
by Victoria Lustbader
Order:  USA  Can
Forge, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
*   Reviewed by Anita Lock

Jody Kowalczyk the person and Jody Kowalczyk the name do not make the best combination. If a dark complexion with prominent Italian features, coupled with a very Polish name, were the only peculiarity found in his character, then there would not be much to write about Jody. From the outside, Jody is pleasant and amicable. He gets along well socially. His easygoing personality and strikingly handsome appearance, of course, draw the ladies. But it is a façade. Indeed, there is a darkness that runs much deeper than what lies at the surface. It is a well-kept secret, except to his immediate family; however, that changes when he meets Tess and Ella.

Taking on a project for Citywide Glass & Mirror at a home for seniors, Jody, who is walking down a hallway, is met by a resident, Tess Fisher, clutching a picture frame to her chest. Staring up at Jody, she immediately mistakes him for her deceased son, Matt. In the process of learning more about Tess, Jody is dumbstruck when Ella, a woman whom he briefly encountered ten years earlier and who left an indelible mark in his mind, suddenly reenters his life. She is equally dumbstruck since he, too, reminds her of Matt, the man she hoped to marry.

Jody begins to spend time conversing with Tess whose intuition amazes Jody. He has never met anyone who candidly tells him that he has scars. Feeling secure in his connection with her, Jody starts to open up by periodically writing stories about his childhood - especially living with his mom Marian and her boyfriend Scott - and then slipping them under Tess's door for her to read. He meets with her afterwards, assuming that they will discuss his stories, but she suggests burning them instead – a way of healing the past. Tess also encourages him to get to know Ella; though eighteen years his senior, they fall in love.

Now surrounded for the first time in his life by people who teach him what real love is all about, he is still tormented by reoccurring nightmares and sudden bursts of anger. It becomes more complicated when he meets Fern, his brother Brendan's fiancée, who only draws him deeper into despair. Jody's determination to be released from his past is strong, but the conclusion of this story is not as hopeful as one may anticipate.

Approaching the Speed of Light is a story of a person who seeks healing and release from his severely tainted childhood. Though Lustbader is creative and articulate in her character development, and alternates between present and past events in Jody's life as an innovative technique to construct the plot, I am personally dissatisfied by the lack of poetic justice at the close of story.

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