Joseph Guiteau is a working actor who moved to New York to escape a tragic family history in the Midwest. Wandering through a city transformed by the attacks of September 2001, he frequents gatherings of conspiracy groups, trying to make sense of world events and his own personal history. Looming over his life is a secret that threatens to undermine his new marriage to Del, a snake expert at a city park, whose work visa is the only thread keeping her from deportation back to her native Greece.
The new marriage influences the lives of those around them: William, a dark and troubled actor whose sanity is fading as quickly as his career, leading him to perform increasingly desperate acts; Madi, a young entrepreneur who will have to face the moral complications of a business made successful by the outsourcing of American jobs to India; and her brother Raj, Del’s former lover, a promising photographer whose work details the empty rooms of an increasingly alienated city.
Christopher Bollen’s first novel captures the atmosphere of anxiety and loss that exists in Manhattan.
Heightened, poignant and mysterious... Bollen’s atmospheric tale of post-9/11 New York has more twists and toxicity than the venomous snakes Del cares for at the Bronx Zoo... ambitious and provocative... his frantic characters are alluring, his writing ravishing, and his insights trenchant.
Pollen’s characters are brimming with the very and stamina of real people searching for meaning in a city beset by calamity... [and] the novel demonstrates the vigor and audacity of a formidable new voice.
Christopher Bollen’s The Lightning People is a tour de force that calls into mind The Great Gatsby.
Smart and rich with the spirit of our age, with keen insight into human emotions and why we do the things we do. So readable.
Ambitious... a nervy debut illuminated by flashes of insight.
Bollen’s intricate, humid Lightning People deftly combines paranoia and high drama with the mundane ache of real relationships, real weather, and a very real New York City. He delves into the haunting mythologies we truly can’t escape, while somehow capturing the sweetness of why we came together anyway.
The fanciful premise behind the title of Bollen’s novel is that, after New York loses the lightning conductors of the Twin Towers, more and more residents die in lightning strikes. But the title also evokes the random nature of post-millennial city life, in which disaster or good fortune can strike at any time. An actor, supported by money from reruns of old commercials, pursues a sinister hobby — frequenting conspiracy-theory chat rooms and meetings. His wife doesn’t know about her husband’s fixation, distracted by her depressing job at the Bronx Zoo and her dysfunctional friends. Bollen excels at creating an atmosphere of Manhattan-specific dread, and certain scenes, particularly the account of a struggling actor’s going-away party, are tragicomic masterpieces.