The mysterious power of love is a major theme of Kathryn Magendie’s latest novel, The Lightning Charmer. Disappointed in love and disenchanted with her career, Laura leaves her job with an ad agency in Manhattan and returns to her childhood home in the mountains of western North Carolina.
Laura is not your normal 30-something single woman. She suffers from synesthesia, a neurological condition in which she sees colors and hears voices and, like Harry Potter, she has a scar on her lower back that flares up when a crisis is impending. Filled with self-doubt, she struggles to find herself. She is pursued by Matthew, a plastic surgeon from Atlanta, whose interest in Laura almost borders on stalking. Laura could take the safe route with Matthew, but she is drawn to Ayron, a mysterious man of the woods she meets while hiking in the mountains. It turns out they have a history, though Laura doesn’t realize it.
The mystery deepens when Flem, a mangy drifter who lives in a shack in the woods, kidnaps Laura. She escapes just as Ayron shows up at the scene, but the threat of Flem looms over the story. The pace quickens in the latter part of the story and gallops along toward the climax.
This story has a lot to say about the power of love and the choices people make in relationships. Laura eschews the safe choice of Matthew, who would have given her a comfortable, if passionless, life. Instead, she is drawn to the mystical Ayron, a man who refuses to be a part of her world.
The author has populated the story with a cast of quirky characters, none better than Laura’s neighbor, Betty. A feisty, middle-aged woman with an affinity for growing a variety of herbs and plants that she claims can cure whatever ails Laura, Betty takes Laura under her wing. Bryan, Laura’s brother, has a typical sibling relationship, chiding his sister but showing his love and support throughout.
Betty summed up this book best for me when she advised Laura, “My girl, sometimes life chooses for us and other times we got to make hard choices. You got to figure out all the in betweens. Turn your life inside out, shake out the pockets, see what falls out. Find out the answers even if it hurts.”