When a lightning strike near the dead maple tree seems to produce a ball of lightning, Fiona and her twin are certain something extraordinary is at hand.
Sensible narrator Fiona North is nearly 13. At the urging of the less-cautious Fenton, she captures the ball of light in a canning jar. When the twins notice new growth on the tree, Fenton’s interest at first is in fame and fortune, experimenting with various small dead creatures to determine the ability of the ball of light to restore some kind of life. The tree, impressively abundant, turns itself into a hybrid maple/apple. A beetle’s missing leg temporarily regrows, yet other results are mixed. The dog is next, followed by Grandpa, whose reappearance they hope will enliven his depressed widow. Scruffy the dog and the grandfather remain partially decomposed, incomplete. Still, each thing brought back to life is changed, and not only from dead to undead. Fiona’s explanation: Free will to choose the deepest self is available both in life and death. Though the family finds itself on the run after the accidental shooting death (and subsequent reanimation) of the father’s fiancee, Fiona’s analysis of their predicament remains optimistic. Kuhlman’s voice for Fiona is both wry and earnest, the gravity of her philosophical musings balanced by un–self-conscious humor.
Eerie and hopeful: family tragedy and reconciliation wrapped in a zombie encounter. (Fantasy. 10-14)