It often appears in life that everything is connected by a strong undercurrent in the universe that holds us all together. In Victoria Lustbader’s novel, Approaching the Speed of Light, this idea seems to be a fact. Jody is a dark, yet compassionate and hard-working man with a troubled, terrible past. His past often hits him when it hurts and at the most unexpected moments, never giving him rest from his demons. As troubled as he is, Jody is magnetic and manages to attract people even if he isn’t sure that he wants them around. His family, dog Einstein, friends and coworkers also make sure that Jody keeps them around.
Jody was adopted and in his previous life his name was Christopher. The memories of Christopher, that life and the terrible people in his life that time, are peppered through the book as a brilliant backdrop. This inclusion was an excellent feature because the memories filled more and more gaps as the book went; the story within the story matched Jody’s progression as a character perfectly. The terrible life that Christopher endured comes back in Jody’s nightmares and act as a block that prevents Jody from letting people in. When Jody does contracting work at an assisted living home, he meets Tess, a resident that mistakes her for her dead son, and the two become close. Tess also introduces Jody to her friend Ella, who Jody realizes he had seen a long time before in a different location and part of his life. The two hit it off and were clearly destined to meet and Jody also develops an endearing relationship with Ella’s young son, Evan.
As Jody continues to grow, learn and accept himself and the past, the story moves along quickly. Lustbader’s setup was brilliant and the ending of the novel quickens, not in a hurried matter, but rather as a ball of energy that seems finally ready to unravel. I have not been emotionally moved by the end of story in a very long time and this one definitely moved me to tears. While the outcome was less than ideal, it was exactly as it should have been to get the message across and really drive the point home. Lustbader corrected the sadness with some extra special joy in the epilogue and connected everything in the story, just as we are all connected.
Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Forge Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.