The Lightning Jar



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2018
142 pages, 5 ½ × 8 ¼ inches

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“. . . eerie and wondrous. Gypsies and ghosts, colors and sounds, forests and dances: they all twirl together in this lonely, lively book.”—Foreword Reviews

“The stories in Felt’s collection tap into the mysteries of childhood, incorporating folklore, ghost stories, and Mormonism along the way. Alternately unnerving and heartwarming, this book's evocation of family life is compelling stuff.”—Kirkus Reviews

“The sentences in this book are small shots of beauty and compression. The prose has the feel of life, but life seen and experienced deeply, with great sensitivity and intelligence, carrying the reader with such grace into the mysterious simplicity of childhood.”—Rebecca Lee, judge, John Simmons Short Fiction Award 

“Imagine Ray Bradbury’s summer-drenched Dandelion Wine set in Hans Christian Andersen’s Scandinavia, and you’ll have a hint of The Lightning Jar’s pleasures: two story sequences that unfold with secrets, cousins, and ghosts; two pivotal memoir-like stories; and Felt’s pocket-sized masterpiece, ‘The Guest on Summer Island.’ This book dazzles and delights.”—Ted Deppe, author, Liminal Blue 

“If the film director Wes Anderson wrote stories. If Isak Dinesen channeled Louisa May Alcott and a young Mormon man. If the Dawn Treader landed in Sweden. No. Christian Felt’s The Lightning Jar, full of spark and glow, is charmingly and utterly his own.”—Natasha Sajé, author, Vivarium 

“In the tradition of Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, the interrelated stories in The Lightning Jar are by turns funny, sad, haunting, and deeply strange. The wonder and terror of childhood come alive in Christian Felt’s uncannily observed and captivating debut.”—Porter Shreve, author, The End of the Book

The Lightning Jar is about lonely children. It may be more about lonely children than any other book. These children are good at making imaginary friends but have trouble keeping them. For instance, there’s the Morra, who plunges the world into eternal winter. But she also teaches Mons the meaning of love and helps him burn down his house after some Gypsies turn it into a middle school. 

Then there’s the Gorbel. Amanda invented it to scare the Guest, but it ended up liking him best. A bit like a cat but more like a spider, it turned out a lot cuter than she’d intended. And the Wisps—they’re pretty unhappy about being dead. Karl accidentally turned his smallest cousin into a Wisp. They were trying to catch some lightning in a jar, but they caught the smallest cousin’s ghost instead. Karl had to drown it for its own good. Something similar happened with his grandma Astrid and a rock named Melisande. But the loneliest character is probably Christian. He insists on being from Jämtland, where Karl and Amanda live. When his cousin Eskild got married, Christian rewrote their past so it’s like The Little Mermaid, except Eskild drowns and Christian doesn’t earn a soul. 

In the spirit of Tove Jansson, William Blake, and Calvin & Hobbes, The Lightning Jar contains a volatile mix of innocence and experience, faith and doubt, nostalgia and a sense of all there is to gain by accepting reality on fresh terms. 

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