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Reading by Lightning (eBOOK)
DIGITAL EDITION

Reading by Lightning (eBOOK)

Winner, Commonwealth Writers Prize, Canada and the Caribbean, Amazon.ca First Novel Award, and On the Same Page, Manitoba Reads

Shortlisted, eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book, Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction, and McNally Robinson Book of the YearM

Longlisted, IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

Lily Piper and her family live in an ephemeral world, due to collapse any moment when the Lord comes to pluck His faithful from the drought-ravaged Prairie. Lily tries to be ready, but she is restless, not the daughter she feels her mother wants. As she tries to invent herself, she conjures, too, an imagined past for her beloved father in an effort to understand him and the demons he battles. In her teens, Lily is sent to England to care for her Grandmother and further explores the delicious question of who she might become. She falls in love with her adopted cousin, learns to experience life in all its ambiguity, and waits with the rest of England for World War II to start — until the news she has been dreading arrives on the doorstep, and she is called home to face a future she thought she had escaped.

Reading by Lightning is a Bildungsroman of great wit and depth. Thomas's prose is wry and intimate, elegant and devastatingly funny. Her engrossing story of Lily Piper tells us something of how we can make sense of a future when the future is something we can hardly imagine.


Joan Thomas has been a regular book reviewer for the Globe and Mail for more than a decade. Her essays, stories, and articles have been published in numerous journals and magazines including Prairie Fire, Books in Canada, and the Winnipeg Free Press. She has won a National Magazine Award, co-edited Turn of the Story: Canadian Short Fiction on the Eve of the Millennium, and has served on the editorial boards of Turnstone Press and Prairie Fire Magazine. She lives in Winnipeg.

Winner: Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best First Book, Canada and the Caribbean
Winner: Amazon.ca First Novel Award
Winner: On the Same Page, Manitoba Reads
Longlisted: International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
Shortlisted: McNally Robinson Book of the Year
Shortlisted: Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction
Shortlisted: Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book
"Thomas writes like an angel... Her prose is carefully considered, troubled, alert to the texture of experience... singular, thoughtful writing that makes the world seem strange." — Globe and Mail — Globe and Mail

"A stunning prairie novel... The dialogue between characters blends emotions and words in an alchemy of tension... If Joan Thomas is an unknown name to you, that's about to change." — Winnipeg Free Press

"Thomas's finely nuanced sensibility variously evokes Austen, Alice Munro, and Richard B. Wright. Most first-time novelists strain for the gold ring; Joan Thomas grabs it effortlessly in this wonderful book." — Quill & Quire

"Like the man in the whirlwind, the reader of this fine novel is snatched away, deposited in a different place — and profoundly changed by the experience." — Literary Review of Canada

"Thomas's novel is a beautifully described and carefully detailed intersection of competing landscapes. ... Precise, complex, and elegant, Reading by Lightning flashes with wit and insight and illuminates our understanding of what it means to be a sojourner in all the familiar places." — Prairie Fire Magazine

"The book is destined to be classic of Canadian Prairie Literature. With writing as fresh and as beautiful as a Prairie landscape, Joan Thomas weaves a tale of mythical proportions." — Blog Business World

"Most first-time novelists strain for the gold ring; Joan Thomas grabs it effortlessly in this wonderful book." — Quill & Quire starred review

"Breathtakingly good." — Nikki Gemmell

"Joan Thomas's writing is so precise, so surprising, that on any given page you might stop, only to read the words again slowly." — Kristen Den Hartog

"We experience this writing with our noses and ears and eyes and fingertips." — Lisa Moore

"A compelling story burnished by spare and powerful writing. This is a fabulous novel, full of grace and delicious discovery, haunted by the flavour of memory and the prairies in World War II." — Amazon.ca First Novel Award jury, 2009

"Lily Piper's search for home — a place where life can be at once familiar and momentous — is utterly absorbing, told with consummate grace." — Beth Powning

"In fresh, exhilarating, masterful prose, Joan Thomas's novel explores the question of belonging. The wit, the wisdom and the quality and generosity of psychological insight make Reading by Lightning the unanimous selection of the judges." — Commonwealth Writers Prize jury, 2009

388 pages
Pub date: November 15, 2010