Be Ready For The Lightning by Grace O'connellBe Ready For The Lightning by Grace O'connell

Be Ready For The Lightning

byGrace O'connell

Paperback | June 6, 2017

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From acclaimed New Face of Fiction alumna Grace O'Connell, a suspenseful, poignant and provocative tale about violence, sibling love, friendship, heroism--all told through the lens of a young woman trapped in a hijacked bus.

On the surface, Veda's life in Vancouver seems to be going just fine--at nearly thirty, she has a good job, lifelong friends, and a close bond with her brother, Conrad. But Conrad's violent behavior, a problem since he was a teen, is getting more and more serious, and Veda's ongoing commitment to watch out for him is pushing her to a breaking point.
     When Veda is injured as a bystander during one of Conrad's many fights, she knows it's time to leave Vancouver for a fresh start. She heads to New York, staying in the Manhattan apartment of old friends Al and Marie. Exploring the city, she swings between feeling hopeful and lost--until one day the bus she's on is hijacked by a sweet-faced gun-toting man named Peter. He instructs Veda and the other passengers to spray paint the bus windows black, and what ensues is a gripping and unpredictable hostage situation, the outcome of which will make Veda question everything she knows about herself and the nature of fear.
     Told with powerful immediacy and warmth, at once unsettling and engrossing, Be Ready for the Lightning is a story of violence, its attractions and repulsions; of love, loyalty and friendship; and of a young woman finding an unexpected kind of bravery.
GRACE O'CONNELL is the author of the national bestseller Magnified World and 2014 winner of the Canadian Authors Association Emerging Writer Award. She holds an MFA in creative writing, and her work has appeared in various publications including The Walrus, Taddle Creek, The Globe and Mail, National Post and Elle Canada. She has taught...
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Title:Be Ready For The LightningFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:304 pages, 9.1 × 6.3 × 0.8 inShipping dimensions:9.1 × 6.3 × 0.8 inPublished:June 6, 2017Publisher:Random House of CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345811771

ISBN - 13:9780345811776

Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Surprisingly good! I had to buy this book for my English ISU, so I didn't think I would enjoy it all that much considering I had to read it for english class. I surprisingly really enjoyed it though, and while it is not my regular genre I enjoyed it a lot. I'm recommending this book to my sister. If you like mystery/crime novels, this will be a good read for you!
Date published: 2018-08-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I WAS VERY DISAPPOINTED! Sadly, I felt that I wasted my money and my precious time, with this novel. The author: Going back into the past so frequently....slowed down the pace of the story line. There should have been MUCH MORE focus on what was actually happening on the bus. It was NOT a page turner for me. For these reasons: I do not recommend this book. I would not even pass it on to anyone. It is going straight into my blue box (recycling box).
Date published: 2018-01-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Be Ready ! This was a very quick read. It was intriguing to be flashing back to the bus hijack, and to before Veda's move from Vancouver to New York. This novel was very compelling and definitely made you want to find out what exactly happened on the bus, and what led Veda to leave her home town. There is a lot more layers happening within this novel other than just the bus hijack. The relationships in Veda's life aren't always the most positive, and I think that is something everyone will be able to related to in this book. What stopped this from being a 5 stars for me, was the lack of bus scenes. I was waiting the full novel for the final moments on the bus... and it was the shortest chapter in the book. This novel was very entertaining and I would definitely recommend this author to others.
Date published: 2017-08-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved this book .... I could not put this book down. The book was a great read. It kept going in and out of the past to present which kept my interest
Date published: 2017-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Vivid and Captivating If I had to use one word to describe Be Ready for the Lightning by Grace O’Connell, I would say vivid; from the descriptions of the scenery to the characters, everything in this book was so intricately developed and detailed. I could smell the smells and hear the sounds. I felt like I knew these people, they were my friends and my confidants. Throughout my reading, I felt a visceral attachment to them, which made this one feel suspenseful and explosive. O’Connell is a master of imagery and I was captivated by her prose. The novel opens like every other day. Veda has just moved from Vancouver to New York, running from her complicated relationship with her brother, and is starting her day like every other day: by almost missing her bus. As she gets on just in time and begins to the monotony of her bus ride, a man a hijacks the bus and shoots the driver. Veda finds herself in an unpredictable hostage situation. The narrative style of this novel was incredibly unique and interesting. The novel is told in several sections and in several time periods. It is told partially in the relative past as Veda experiences the events on the bus, partially in the present as Veda deals with the aftermath of the ordeal and the rest, told in flashbacks, as Veda remembers moments from her childhood and timelines the relationship with her brother, Conrad as they grow up in a Vancouver suburb. I couldn’t help but consistently wonder how all these pieces would fit together and how her past experiences would help her in the present. Veda, as a character, is very observant. Constantly taking inventory of things around her. I found this to add to the tone that O’Connell sets throughout the novel. No detail is missed and no stone is left unturned. This is absolutely a slow burn of a read, definitely not a fast-paced, in your face style of thriller. But don’t get it twisted, this one, although not the type of novel I am usually into (I know I complain about slow moving books ALL THE TIME), Be Ready for the Lightning had me grabbing on to every word and holding my breath. I could not wait to see what would happen and how this would pan out. If you like stories that are character-centered and will have you anxiously awaiting a resolution, this would be a perfect read for you. I also feel like there is so much in this narrative that would make a fantastic book club discussion. AND to top it all off, O’Connell is a Canadian author. Which you know I am always delighted to find!
Date published: 2017-06-06

Read from the Book

I’ve never been shot. I’ve never even seen a gun up close, other than my father’s hunting rifles up at the cabin. And those old .22s, with their wooden stocks, are more like something from Davey Crockett than Quentin Tarantino. He took Conrad into the woods to shoot sometimes—my dad, not Quentin Tarantino. Muffled booms from deep in the trees. It was just pop cans off stumps, and once, on a whim, the slowest, dumbest rabbit. Tears from Connie afterwards. They didn’t invite me into the woods to shoot. It wasn’t because I’m a girl. Just an assumption that I wouldn’t have wanted to go. They were right. I wouldn’t have. I get on the city bus that day in April after running three blocks down Fifth Avenue, along the side of Central Park. I’ve been in New York a couple of months already, but there’s still a part of me, a dorky tourist part, that can only think I’m running down Fifth Avenue. I’m running beside Central Park as I go. A numbskull commentary of the obvious.I’m wearing my shoes that got ruined in the rain. They’re half-slipping off my feet, but the bus is almost at the stop, so I run past souvenir stands and lemonade carts and a pile of seemingly discarded blue wooden slats telling me sternly, “Police Line Do Not Cross.” It’s unseasonably hot in Manhattan, and I’m sweating in my pits, down my back and a little where my bra meets my skin.On the bus, there isn’t an open seat except where I would have to really squeeze in beside someone, which I don’t like, so I just stand. I hang from the clammy pull-down handle, swinging and swaying around. I bump into a moustached man beside me and apologize.He says, “Don’t worry dear,” and my homesick heart gives a little jump, because that is something my dad would say, the dear. I can almost hear him saying it, the faded Irish lilt buttering the edges of his voice. When I’m away from them, I miss a version of my parents that doesn’t really exist, a sort of cuddly perfect-family nostalgia. Maybe I’m not the only one; maybe this is why people leave, move on, put distance between themselves and where they’re from—so they can miss a Vaseline-lens version of things.Central Park goes on forever. Just before we pass by the Met and its grand entrance, a crowd of kids gets off the bus with a woman herding them, probably a teacher. There’s a playground peeking out above the stone wall of the park. I don’t know why—I don’t get sappy about kids usually—but it makes me smile. After the kids go, there’s enough room to sit, but I don’t bother. Neither does the moustache man. I feel attached to him, as if we are friends. I do this with strangers all the time. I do it with cars that I drive behind on the highway for a long time. I get sad when they exit.A tall guy, one of those slab-of-meat Russian types, gets on the bus and sits down in one of the spaces vacated by the children. He’s talking loudly into a cell phone.“Yeah, I’m on the M1 now, I’ll be there when I’m there, it’s good. Doesn’t matter, anyway, she wouldn’t even let me pick him up, like picking him up is something so big, too big for me apparently. It’s some bullshit, but what am I supposed to do? I got my mom to do it, apparently that was okay, even she wouldn’t say no to my mom—”A professorial-looking man across the aisle makes a shh sound and says, quietly, “Could you keep your voice down? You’re disturbing everyone.”Without even moving the phone away from his mouth, the first man says, even louder, “Don’t tell me to shh, I ain’t disturbing anyone but you.” The two of them glare at one another for a second, and I get tense all over. I hate fights. There is that swollen, pre-storm feeling that crackles between men sometimes. Then the smaller guy drops his eyes, and the loud one returns to his call, and there is an air of relief and emasculation around the man who complained.In the seat in front of him, two teenagers are taking photos of each other with a phone.The girl says, “What’s it called? Photographic memory? I totally want that.”And the boy says, “Anyone can do it, it’s easy.”“No, it’s not, you have to be born with it.”“No, you can learn it. You need these special lights, and there’s a book that teaches you how. My sister told me about it.”At this the girl looks cowed, impressed. Then the boy points the phone at her, and she smiles again.I’m looking out the window, somewhere in the lower fifties or upper forties, watching a man take a photo of his wife on the sidewalk as she pantomimes throwing her umbrella into a trash can. I picture them torturing their nieces and nephews with a computer slideshow of those photos, when they get home. Why take a picture like that? Celebrating the end of the rain, the beautiful day? I guess I opted for the bus over the subway for the same reason, and because I don’t like being underground, and because I’m not in a hurry.I haven’t been in a hurry since I got to New York. I’m filling my hours, wandering around, tutoring kids who are either too dumb for me to ever get them where their anxious parents want them to end up, or too smart to need me. I prefer the dumb ones. I can comfort them, and some of them have already developed appealing compensations for their dumbness—humour or charm or selfdeprecation. They know that they’re not going to make their parents happy. The smart ones are sadder, more desperate. They want to be even smarter than they are; they are already worried about being anything less than perfect.One girl asked me to write a college essay for her. I was confused, because she’s one of the brightest kids I tutor. I knew whatever she wrote would be good. “Not good enough,” she said, her perfectly smooth hands twisting together on the dining room table. “I’ll pay you. I have my own account. How much do you want?” Sounding slightly manic, she started listing the things she could give me: this purse or that cell phone; she could give me her brand-new laptop and tell her parents she lost it; did I want her coat, her shoes, her dresses? I didn’t take her money or her stuff, but it wasn’t because it would have been wrong. It was because I could tell this girl didn’t have it in her to lie well, to lie blandly and in that small way lies need to be told in order to be believed. That she would panic and throw me under the bus, when her parents said, “Is that what really happened?” That she was still missing the slightly rotten thing I’d found in myself that keeps you calm and flat when you should be sorry.In Midtown, a guy gets on wearing a checked shirt under a long, heavy coat. His thin legs poke out from shorts below the coat, sport socks yanked up above tennis shoes. It is a heartbreaking outfit, a clash of boy and man. He must be so hot. Also, he’s sort of goodlooking, despite the weird clothes, one of those dark honey blonds, sharp-nosed with the sort of finely veined skin that looks like it would bruise easily.After the door closes behind him, just as the bus begins to pull away from the curb, he reaches into his jacket and takes out a gun, leans over the fare box, around the Plexiglas shield, and points it at the driver’s head. The gun is big and sort of rectangular, like a cell phone from the ’80s.“Stop the bus,” he says.I only see and hear this because I’m close to the front; I’m already looking at him. He couldn’t be more than thirty, if that, the same age as me. The driver slams on the brakes, the bus lurches to a halt, and my body goes forward and then back. I bump into the moustache man again, who says, “Don’t worry, don’t worry, I’m not made of glass,” even though I didn’t say anything this time. He’s behind me and hasn’t yet seen the man with the gun. But an older woman in front of me, sitting in the courtesy seats, has, and she is making small noises.“Pull it right over to the curb,” says the man, “and put your hands on your head. Don’t speak on your radio. Please.” His voice is lower than you’d expect from his size, his looks. A baritone, a radio voice.Some people behind me are grumbling and saying, “What the fuck?” because they don’t know why the bus has stopped. And all of this so far has taken only seconds. The driver puts the bus in gear and it trundles to the right. One wheel goes up on the curb, and more passengers yell. What the fuck. Is this idiot drunk? Jesus Christ. The driver puts his hands on his head, and I can just see a scrap of his elbow jutting out to the side.“Put it back in park,” says the man, and the driver does so, the elbow dipping out of sight momentarily. I can hear him speaking now. He says, “Just walk off, just go home. You’re okay, man, you’re okay. It’s nothing, really, nothing at all.”I’m not really thinking anything right now. In the morning, I’d been walking around in the Met feeling strangely disconnected, as if I’d gone deaf. I was still worrying, irrationally, that what happened to my ear in B.C. had damaged my hearing, though logically I knew that my zonked feeling was probably just a hangover from the bar night I’d just had for my birthday with Al and Marie. I got the Met tickets from the parents of a boy I’m tutoring who’s wonderfully rich and woefully stupid. Technically, you can go to the museum for free, but they ask you to buy a ticket–you can choose any price, or none at all. The idea of just ignoring the request and swanning in without paying was too intimidating, but paying for a free museum seemed wasteful on my limited budget. The pre-paid ticket was easy, anonymous. If I told Annie that, she’d make fun of me. Spineless. I know it.On the bus, in this moment, it’s too quick. The whole thing seems like something that is happening but also not happening. I feel like I’m floating. I still have the little metal badge from the Met clipped to the neckline of my dress, a summer dress I’m wearing, because it is so oddly warm today. The only tiny working corner of my brain theorizes that this might be some sort of extreme ad campaign or maybe a movie shoot (how, somehow). Or something terribly strange but legitimate, allowed. It can’t be real. The gunman steps back a little, blinks a few times. He looks at the Plexiglas barrier that half-shields the driver’s seat. Then he shoots the driver in the head.

Editorial Reviews

“Gripping, twisty novel! Killer ‘Peter Pan,’ hijacked bus, complex loves, more!” —@Margaret Atwood “Grace O’Connell is a writer of fierce precision and her novel is enthralling. It captures the random traumas of living, and dying, in New York City with poetry and adrenalin.” —Emily Schultz, author of The Blondes “Be Ready for the Lightning is gripping, tense and full of fear, but also generous, true and full of heart. By holding a crackling tension between the two, O’Connell takes us on a captivating exploration around the boundaries of family love.” —Claire Cameron, author of The Last Neanderthal“A riveting story of an indelible life in all its vivid turmoil and everyday beauty. With wit, empathy, and wonder, Grace O’Connell has crafted a terrifically assured novel about how words can fail us and also how they can save us. I didn’t want it to end.” —Elan Mastai, author of All Our Wrong Todays“Tense and razor-sharp, Grace O’Connell’s writing crackles. This book will stay with you long after the last page.” —Tanis Rideout, author of Above all Things “Be Ready for the Lightning is both a gripping page-turner and a heartfelt examination of what it means to be compassionate, even in the most extreme situations. Cinematic and timely, it’s a book you will not be able to put down.” —Zoe Whittall, author of The Best Kind of People