Kirkus Reviews QR Code
HEAT LIGHTNING by Leah Hager Cohen


by Leah Hager Cohen

Pub Date: July 11th, 1997
ISBN: 0-380-97468-1
Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

A first novel by the already much-praised Cohen (Train Go Sorry: Inside a Deaf World, 1993; Glass, Paper, Beans, 1996) stuns with its lean, unadorned artistry as it limns the tale of two preadolescent sisters in their search for the truth about their parents' death, their own past, and the connection that binds them together. Tilly and Mole's parents drowned in the Kittiwake River one stormy night while trying to rescue a boatload of partygoers—or at least that's how the story goes. Now, 11-year-old Mole (real name Martha) and the prettier 12-year-old Tilly have spent the nine years since their parents' death embroidering on this sparse family legend—imbuing their mother and father with invented personalities, passions, and tragic flaws that their guardian, Aunt Hy, and their small-town neighbors have neglected to provide. Over time, Mole has come to consider this story of death the sisters' greatest treasure, and she's outraged when Tilly casually uses it to impress a city boy whose family is vacationing on the lake. The family, renting a house from Aunt Hy for the summer, is headed by a pair of scientists whose marital troubles cast a shadow on Mole and Tilly as well as on their own four children. As Tilly is drawn ever deeper into the vortex of this troubled clan, Mole deals with Tilly's abrupt abandonment of her in exchange for romance by painstakingly collecting clues to the true story of her parents' lives, hoarding and treasuring each shiny bit of information as a potential tool to bring her sister back to her—and to rescue her from the perilous brink of adolescence. Cohen's taut, unsentimental prose brilliantly evokes Mole's strange imaginary world. A radiant coming-of-age story in which every character rings true. (First printing of 25,000)