A terrible tragedy has struck Majestic, Pennsylvania, a quiet suburb that had once seemed safe from random horror. The residents of the town struggle to pick up the pieces and move past that terrible night in We Are the Light by Matthew Quick.
Lucas Goodgame, a resident of Majestic, is struggling. Everyone in Majestic sees him as a hero, but Lucas emphatically does not. He writes to his former analyst Karl, begging him to take him back on as a client even though Karl is no longer practicing. Lucas persists, as he feels Karl is the only one that will understand and be able to help him as grief threatens to consume him.
Through Lucas’ letters – heartfelt and funny – we learn that Lucas believes he is visited by his deceased wife Darcy every night in the form of an angel. Although he tried to return to his job as a high school counsellor after the tragedy, he got no further than the parking lot before he had to turn around and go home. Lucas retreats further and further from daily life, waiting each night for Darcy to appear.
Things begin to change when Eli, an eighteen-year-old young man whom the community has ostracized, begins camping out in Lucas’s backyard. Lucas and Eli strike up an unlikely friendship and together they hatch a project to heal the community – and themselves.
Told with humor and optimism despite the terrible circumstances, We Are the Light offers insight into Lucas’ mental health and it’s deterioration. The reader learns about what exactly happened in bits and pieces and the extent of what Lucas saw and experienced isn’t fully revealed until toward the end. That he manages, somehow, to pull himself out of a spiral (with lots of help from friends and neighbors and the community itself) makes this a hopeful, fascinating read.
If you are taking part in the Online Reading Challenge this year, this book is a good choice for our December theme of coping with mental health issues.