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We Are the Light

A Novel

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About The Book

From Matthew Quick, the New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook—made into the Academy Award–winning movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper—comes a poignant and hopeful novel about a widower who takes in a grieving teenager and inspires a magical revival in their small town.

Lucas Goodgame lives in Majestic, Pennsylvania, a quaint suburb that has been torn apart by a recent tragedy. Everyone in Majestic sees Lucas as a hero—everyone, that is, except Lucas himself. Insisting that his deceased wife, Darcy, visits him every night in the form of an angel, Lucas spends his time writing letters to his former Jungian analyst, Karl. It is only when Eli, an eighteen-year-old young man whom the community has ostracized, begins camping out in Lucas’s backyard that an unlikely alliance takes shape and the two embark on a journey to heal their neighbors and, most importantly, themselves.

From Matthew Quick, whose work has been described by the Boston Herald as “like going to your favorite restaurant. You just know it is going to be good,” We Are the Light is an unforgettable novel about the quicksand of grief and the daily miracle of love. The humorous, soul-baring story of Lucas Goodgame offers an antidote to toxic masculinity and celebrates the healing power of art. In this tale that will stay with you long after the final page is turned, Quick reminds us that life is full of guardian angels.

Excerpt

Chapter 1 1.
Dear Karl,

First, I want to apologize for coming to your consulting room even after receiving the letter saying you were no longer practicing and, therefore, could no longer be my—or anyone else’s—analyst.

I realize that your consulting room is connected to your home and since you’ve stopped practicing it’s probably become part of your house now, making it off-limits to me. I was on autopilot. Every Friday night at seven p.m. for almost fourteen months. That’s a hard habit to break. And psyche kept saying, “Go. Karl needs you,” which was initially confusing because I’m the analysand and you are the analyst, so I’m supposed to need you and not the other way around. But you always told me to listen to psyche and that the goal of analysis was to individuate and know the Self well enough to align with it. Well, my psyche really wants a relationship with you. It keeps saying you need my help. Also, Darcy told me to keep going to analysis. And I just generally wanted to go, as well. I’ve really missed our weekly “analytic container,” our two hours. Friday nights.

It was hard to manage everything without our sessions, especially at first. Many people offered to find me a new you, but I kept telling everyone I’d wait for Karl. I have to admit, I didn’t initially think I’d be waiting so long. Please don’t feel bad. The last thing I want to do is guilt-trip you, especially given all we’ve been through, collectively and individually. I just want you to understand. And you always say that I should tell you everything and never hold back.

I, too, haven’t been able to return to work since the tragedy. I tried a few times, but never made it out of my car. I just sat there in the faculty parking lot watching the students streaming into the building. Some would look over at me with concerned expressions and I couldn’t tell whether I wanted them to help me or if I wanted to be invisible. It was the strangest sensation. Do you ever feel that way? I’d grip the steering wheel so hard my knuckles would turn white.

Isaiah—my boss and friend and principal of Majestic High, in case you forgot—eventually would come out and sit down in my passenger seat. He’d put his hand on my shoulder and tell me that I’d helped a lot of kids already and now it was time to help myself. He comes to my house all the time too. Because he’s very religious, he’ll say, “Lucas, you’re one of the best men I’ve ever met and I’m absolutely sure Jesus has a plan for you.” Sometimes he and his wife, Bess, cook me dinner in my own kitchen, which is nice. They bring all the food and everything. Bess always says, “Lucas, you have to eat. You’re wasting away to nothing,” and it’s true. Isaiah’s a great friend. A good man. Bess is a fantastic woman. But Darce—you’ll remember that’s what I sometimes call Darcy, dropping the last syllable—says I can’t tell anyone about her transformation, and so it’s hard, because I can only nod and press my lips together whenever Isaiah and Bess say God has a plan for me, which makes them think I’m agreeing, rather than holding in a tremendous secret.

I went to their church a few Sunday mornings, back in January, for what Isaiah calls “worship.” I was the only white person there, which was interesting. I like the gospel singing. The first time I went, the purple-and-gold-robed pastor called me up to the altar and put his hand on my head and loudly prayed for me. Then he asked everyone in the congregation to come up and lay their hands on me while they also prayed. I’ve never in my life had so many hands on me. It was a kind gesture that I appreciated, but the funny thing was that I couldn’t stop shaking, even when the touching and praying ceased and the singing started again, which was uplifting. I thought I was having a seizure.

I kept going to Sunday service, but after a few weeks no one prayed for me anymore and I kind of felt like I was invading something—like maybe I was an interloper. When I told him how I felt, Isaiah said, “Ain’t no unwelcomed guests in God’s house,” which was nice, but Darcy said I shouldn’t wear out my welcome and so I stopped going to church, even though I liked and maybe even needed it. Perhaps I’ll go back at the end of the year for the Christmas season if Isaiah keeps asking me. Darcy said maybe that would be okay.

Last December, I attended seventeen of the eighteen funerals. Well, at least part of each. The funeral homes tried to make it so that no two services overlapped, because that’s the way we bereaved wanted it. But a few funerals ended up partially conflicting, mostly because everyone wanted their burials to happen before Christmas. I would have made at least an appearance at all eighteen, but the police wouldn’t let me into Jacob Hansen’s service. And I have to say your Leandra’s—which I attended in its entirety—was perhaps the best. I liked the way you personalized everything and resisted a more traditional format. I didn’t even know your wife played the cello until you showed that video of her in your living room the day before the tragedy. It made me realize how one-sided analysis can be, since you knew almost everything about my Darcy, and yet, I didn’t know your Leandra’s profession. I’m not sure I even knew her name before the tragedy, which is hard to believe, especially since we’d see you two at the Majestic Theater and we’d always exchange waves and smiles from a respectable non-boundary-crossing distance.

I also admire how you led the funeral yourself without the help of a minister or rabbi or priest. I’m not sure I would have been able to do that, even though Darcy’s funeral was just staged for appearances and her casket was obviously empty.

If you were worried about missing Darcy’s funeral, please don’t be. Like I said above, it wasn’t real. And I’m not sure anyone but me even noticed your absence at all the others.

Anyway, in the video you screened at your wife’s funeral—as you will certainly remember—Leandra was practicing for a solo she was to perform at a Christmas-themed show and the song she was playing really made me believe that I had to tell you about my numinous experience. It seemed like a sign. Proof that you and I were in this together and that I wasn’t going insane.

You’ll remember that the song was “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

I was surprised at how such a small woman could handle such a big instrument. And I marveled at the ethereal sounds your wife massaged out with her wonderful bow work. It was miraculous watching Leandra playing at her own funeral and I almost ran up to the pulpit right then and there. It was like God had come down from heaven and commanded me to tell you the good news about the tragedy, which was strange because I’m not religious. I’m not entirely certain that I even believe in God.

I didn’t run up to the pulpit, of course, but sat on my hands. And then Leandra’s version of “Angels We Have Heard on High” played over and over again in my brain, producing a sense of ecstasy. My body was right there in the pew, but my soul—or psyche—was somewhere high above, marveling at the early morning sunlight streaming through the stained-glass depictions of saints.

I don’t remember anything else until I was standing at the back of the crowd that had gathered by Leandra’s open grave. Darcy’s best friend, Jill, was holding my hand. I was wearing dark sunglasses when my soul slipped back into my body. And you were crying violently with a hand on your wife’s white casket. It was like your black suit was heavy armor, because you were hunched over in a way that aged you, making you look more like ninety-eight than seventy-eight. You couldn’t catch your breath, so it became impossible for you to speak, let alone conclude the funeral. No one knew what to do because there was no priest or minister or rabbi to take the lead. And you wouldn’t let anyone else help you. You kept waving—and even literally pushing—people away. Then you started saying, “The service is over. Go home. Please just leave me alone.” Everyone was feeling cautious and unsure until Robin Withers—the town’s head librarian, whose husband, Steve, was also killed, in case you don’t know her—put a hand on the casket, crossed herself, kissed you on the cheek, and then gracefully departed. That seemed to calm you down. So everyone followed Robin’s good lead, including Jill and me, who were the last two people to exit.

But when I made it to Jill’s truck, I looked back and you were still crying all alone, only there were two men nearby smoking cigarettes next to a backhoe. They had on shark-colored jumpsuits, black gloves, and beanie hats. And their dead eyes were watching you.

Jill tried to stop me, but I broke free of her arms and strode over to you. You were crying so hard I thought maybe you were dying, but I told you about Darcy having wings now and my seeing your Leandra and all of the others rise from the lifeless pools of blood, back at the Majestic Theater. And I described for you their collective graceful ascent toward the heavens. Their white feathers sparkling like opals. The steady pulse of flapping. The dignity and glory and compensation. I don’t know how much you heard through your sobbing. I’m happy to give you a more detailed report whenever we resume our Friday-night sessions, which is what this letter is in service of. I’m very much open to being questioned.

I miss sitting on the worn leather seat and staring at your large black glasses. I miss the little forest of totem pole cacti by the windows and the “phallic energy” those strange green plants would supply us. I miss seeing the deep wrinkles in your face, which always reassured me, because they appeared hard-won—like they had been etched by the accumulation of great wisdom. But mostly I miss the healing energy that always flowed so naturally between us.

Bobby the cop says I’m not allowed to knock on your door anymore, which I have stopped doing, if you haven’t noticed. But psyche says I must keep trying to reconnect with you in one way or another. Psyche says it’s vital. That your very life might depend on it. Darcy suggested writing letters, as a safe compromise, saying, “What harm can a letter do? No one was ever hurt by words on a piece of paper. If it’s too much for Karl, he can simply refold the paper, slip it back into the envelope, and read it later.” She also said I was a pretty clever correspondent. We used to send letters when we were in college, since we attended different universities back in the early nineties. And I have always loved writing, so I thought, why not?

I don’t know if you remember, but early on—when you first started analyzing me—you… well, you looked deep into my eyes for what felt like fifteen minutes and then you said, “I love you, Lucas.” It really made me uncomfortable at the time. I even went home and googled What to do when your therapist says I love you. That was back before I understood the difference between an analyst and a therapist. Pretty much everything I found on the internet said I should immediately stop seeing you, because your saying “I love you” was unethical and boundary-crossing. And I almost did stop coming to analysis, mostly because I was afraid. Other than Darcy, no one had ever said “I love you” to me before. Not with sincerity. But then, as we spent two hours together every Friday night, I started to get better and I began to understand what you meant when you said your soul could love my soul because it’s everyone’s soul’s purpose to love, just like it’s the job of our lungs and nose to breathe; and our mouths to chew and taste; and our feet to walk. As we banked more and more Friday nights together, I started to believe that you actually did love me—not in a sexual way or even a friend way. You loved me the way the best of a human being naturally loves the best of any and every other human being once you remove all the toxic interference.

That’s why I feel it’s important for me to say, “I love you too, Karl,” especially since I never managed to say that to you before now. I wanted to so many times, because you helped me clean up so many of my complexes. Darcy kept daring me to tell you I love you, but I obviously couldn’t before now.

I love you, Karl.

And I want to help you.

You can’t hide in your home for the rest of your life.

You are not a shut-in; you just can’t be.

Psyche keeps saying I need to break through your neurotic bubble of isolationism.

You need to help me, obviously, but you will also resume helping many other people once you have properly mourned Leandra’s murder and healed your heart. I’m absolutely certain.

Is there anything I can do to speed up the process?

What do you need?

I’m willing to do just about anything.

Your most loyal analysand,

Lucas

About The Author

Alicia Bessette

Matthew Quick is the New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook, which was made into an Oscar-winning film; The Good Luck of Right NowLove May Fail; The Reason You’re Alive; and four young adult novels. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages, received a PEN/Hemingway Award Honorable Mention, was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and more. The Hollywood Reporter has named him one of Hollywood’s 25 Most Powerful Authors. Matthew lives with his wife, the novelist Alicia Bessette, on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Why We Love It

“Every book editor knows the adage, ‘When you cry, you buy,’ i.e. acquire the manuscript for publication immediately. I was such an emotionally wrecked, tear-stained mess as I finished We Are the Light that I had a hard time even locating my phone to tell the literary agent that I had to publish it. So I envy you the good cry you’re in for when you read this beautiful, life-affirming new novel by the author of The Silver Linings Playbook.”

—Jofie F., VP, Publisher, on We Are the Light

Product Details

  • Publisher: Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster (November 1, 2022)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781668005422

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Raves and Reviews

We Are the Light is a testament to the broken and the rebuilt. . . . Quick’s deeply moving epistolary novel is a balm.” 
Booklist (starred review)

“A timely, lovely, and sometimes heartbreaking novel of grief and hope, beautifully told through a series of letters that shine light on our capacity to heal, even after tragedy.” 
—Mitch Albom, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Stranger in the Lifeboat 

“Matthew Quick’s We Are the Light is a treasure of a novel—wise, humane, and deeply moving. Whoever you are, whatever trials you’ve faced in life, read it and be healed.” 
—Justin Cronin, New York Times bestselling author of the Passage Trilogy

We Are the Light is the book America needs right now. A novel that embraces our national heartbreak and division with love and compassion. Matthew Quick is the patron saint of the damaged and outcast and no one writes with more heart and empathy. You’ll love this book.” 
Nickolas Butler, bestselling author of Shotgun Lovesongs and Godspeed

We Are the Light is a beautifully written and emotion-packed novel with a huge heart. Matthew Quick takes us on a searing and unforgettable journey through grief and empathy and how even the most broken of us can be repaired.” 
—Harlan Coben, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Win

“Matthew Quick has always been a brilliant chronicler of the ways in which we get broken, and the spectacular ways our lives can fall apart, and yet his greatest gift is the way he tries to find, within every story, an opportunity to put some of those pieces back together. In We Are the Light, where unexpected connections offer a way forward, Quick writes with such honesty and openhearted understanding of the pain and joy of being alive.”
—Kevin Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Nothing to See Here

“Filled with everyday guardian angels, this bittersweet, redemptive meditation on rebuilding after the unthinkable reminds readers that beauty can be found even among shattered pieces. We Are the Light is a perfect read for anyone in need of an insightful, optimistic view of humanity’s capacity for compassion and growth.”
—Shelf Awareness

“Matthew Quick is one of the few fiction writers who, inspired by Jungian insights, makes a solid contribution to the impact of analysis. Like all significant works of art that reflect truths we might have known, had we not lost our way, We Are the Light is subtle and intimate, compellingly strange and hauntingly familiar, an initiation into the depths of suffering and love. It will not only break your heart—it will break it free.”
—Joseph R. Lee, Jungian analyst and cohost of This Jungian Life podcast

“An illuminating epistolary novel . . . A crackling narrative builds to an excruciatingly honest disclosure. The author’s fans will love this.” 
Publishers Weekly

“A story of unexpected twists and turns on the road to recovery after a shattering tragedy. . . . When it comes to facing tragedy and trauma, Quick’s novel shows us that it definitely takes a village to heal and move on.”
Kirkus Reviews

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