Above The Thunder

Above the ThunderManfredi, Renee. Above the Thunder. San Francisco: MacAdam & Cage, 2004.

Once I started reading Above the Thunder it was like a giant boulder building momentum down a hill. I couldn’t stop turning the pages. I like that it’s all about journeys, big and small. Personal and global. On the surface its four people, on the whole it’s humanity. The plot is simple – it’s about the life of Anna. She starts out being a cynical, bitter widow who “doesn’t want to get involved.”‘ She doesn’t want to get involved in living, period. She has all but disowned her daughter whom she hasn’t seen in 12 years. She has one friend. When her son-in-law and granddaughter return to live with her and she reluctantly agrees to help moderate an aids support group she ends up being the center of a collection of people so diverse and wonderful she can’t help but change and, in the process, grow. Sounds predictable and nice, but it isn’t. There is a harsh reality to this coming-into-the-light story: aids, suicide, divorce, miscarriage and sadness all play an important part in the plot.

The thing I liked best about Above the Thunder are the characters. They are believable. Anna is introduced to us as closed off and inflexible. In time she changes, but when faced with a new tragedy she reverts back her old self and craves solitude where she can grieve in private. In shrugging off the comfort of others she is still the same person we meet in chapter one. Even Jack, a homosexual with problems with fidelity, doesn’t change his desire for sexual freedom once he discovers he is hiv positive. All the characters go through a period of growth and acceptance, but at the core are all still the same unique individuals.
Some favorite lines:

  • “She doubted it was possible to understand someone else’s suffering. Even her beloved husband whose pain had become a private geography on which she couldn’t trespass.” (p 21)
  • “Holy God, man, how long does it take to cook a hot dog? I’ve been in line long enough to break a habit, backslide, and recommit.” (p 183)

And a favorite scene: two homosexual men trying to teach a pubescent girl how to use a tampon for the first time. It’s hysterical and poignant all at once.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called, “Maiden Voyages” (p 159). I have always loved discovering someone’s very first novel. Katherine Weber’s maiden voyage is one of my favorite, but Above the Thunder rates right up there, too.

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