Red Lightning and the Human Heart

“Aim for the absolute version,” editor Tom Jenks advised us during a week-long intensive writing workshop in Denver several years ago.  “Write the story so that anyone can understand it.”  I struggled to understand this advice.  What about the complexities of plot and character?  What about hidden meaning and layered nuances?  Didn’t I want my story to appeal to the sophisticated reader, the reader who sought out intelligent stories?  Surely I didn’t want to write uncomplicated stories that anyone could understand.

And yet, that is exactly what Laura Pritchett did with her novel Red Lightning. I’m not talking simple here; I’m talking uncluttered.  Anyone who has ever known or lost a mother, loved a sister or a brother, given up a child, or regained a piece of lost, fractured heart—anyone who’s own small humanity has shriveled because of large failures—who has ever sought forgiveness—will appreciate Red Lightning for the clarity with which it portrays that universal human experience.

Perhaps a better interpretation of the “absolute version” of a story is the version based on absolute knowledge, on things understood to be true worldwide.  Red Lightning taps into the complex and tangled emotions that are found in almost all mother/daughter/sister relationships.  The beauty of Pritchett’s writing is that she uses lucid prose—clear and unfettered—to convey the shadowy depths of the human heart.

Pellucid:  Adjective 1) allowing the maximum passage of light, as glass; translucent. 2) clear or limpid: pellucid waters. 3) clear in meaning, expression, or style: a pellucid way of writing.


Barbara R. said…
Untangling the thoughts and acts and motives of a darkly prodigal daughter. I could not stop reading this novel!
Liz said…
Page, This is so beautiful, and helpful for all of us who grieve. In order to express this so well, you have to have the deep thoughts to begin with. Thank you for this.
Love, LIZ
Anonymous said…
Page.. this is such a loving tribute to the mothers in your life.. thank you so very much for sharing these special intimate thoughts… Cari
Carol said…
Page, your essay here brought me to tears. My own mother is 98 and I know that her days are limited, as are mine, and yours. We share impermanence. Your remembrance of these beautiful elders is a fitting tribute to their precious lives and their influence on you. Thanks for sharing your sensitive insights.
May your heart be comforted.
Gail said…
Your words honor the women you have called mother. Thank you for sharing those thoughts.
Kiss each other for me
MS said…
Thank you, Page, for this. It is beautiful. I'm 75 now and clearly an elder. A cranky one. And you? ms
Pat said…

Beautiful tribute to the wonderful women in your life.
I understand the feeling of being orphaned; my mother died when I was 21. Although death will ultimately take us all, I am always numbed when losing someone close to me. So many losses but so many reasons to celebrate knowing them; we are blessed. I am sorry for your loss though Page; I know Edie was very dear to you. Hugs to you and John.
ZJ Czupor said…
Hi Page,

Just read your beautiful tribute to the important women in your life. That was very moving.

Jackie said…
I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the summer greetings essay about the mothers in your life. It was beautifully eloquent.

As August passed by, I thought fondly and longingly about our river trip last year and the comraderie, inspiration, and adventure that we had. Six weeks ago I incorporated the essay that I wrote and shared the morning of our layover day ("Angry Old Woman") into a chapter in my memoir...

Thanks for the encouragement the trip provided last summer -- it came at the right time!
Best regards,

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