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Be Ready for the Lightning

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  234 ratings  ·  73 reviews
From acclaimed New Face of Fiction alumna Grace O'Connell, a suspenseful, poignant and provocative tale about violence, sibling love, friendship, heroism--all told through the lens of a young woman trapped in a hijacked bus.

On the surface, Veda's life in Vancouver seems to be going just fine--at nearly thirty, she has a good job, lifelong friends, and a close bond with her
Paperback, 304 pages
Published June 6th 2017 by Random House Canada
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3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  234 ratings  ·  73 reviews

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Jun 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
It embarrassed me to love him, when everybody else did too. In the books I read, girls who like boys were vapid B-characters. The protagonists were always girls who hated the main boy, had bigger things on their minds, but who ended up with him anyway. I wanted to be like that, to be a main character with better things to do than fall in love. But what did I know? Maybe love was supposed to be embarrassing.

Intrigued by the title and the cover, I was absolutely blown away by the prologue whic
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
3+ stars. I'm having a bit of trouble rating Be Ready for the Lightning. Compared to the previous book I read by Grace O'Connell -- Magnified World -- it is much better. O'Connell has matured as a writer. Her writing is stronger and her characters are more believable. Also, I liked what I saw as the main theme -- the challenging love between two siblings. And O'Connell handled the two timelines in an interesting way, slowly bringing them together by the end. But, still, the reading experience fe ...more
Jun 15, 2017 rated it liked it
A group is kidnapped by a Peter Pan figure and the author mixes the before the event and the future of what happened after the event. Interesting method that leaves you wondering what happened and why and all the scenarios that one can think of.
Sam (Clues and Reviews)
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If I had to use one word to describe Be Ready for the Lightning by Grace O’Connell, I would say vivid; from the descriptions of the scenery to the characters, everything in this book was so intricately developed and detailed. I could smell the smells and hear the sounds. I felt like I knew these people, they were my friends and my confidants. Throughout my reading, I felt a visceral attachment to them, which made this one feel suspenseful and explosive. O’Connell is a master of imagery and I was ...more
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadiana
This was quite different than what I had expected it to be, given that from its blurb I imagined this would strictly be a tense thriller that takes place on a hijacked bus. Instead, it's a thoughtful reflection of a young woman's life - before the bus she gets on one afternoon is hijacked by a mentally disturbed man, during the ordeal, and afterward.

Veda is the main character, but you really get to know all of the people in her life as much as you get to know her. For such a relatively short boo
Vikki VanSickle
Dreamy, shocking, uncomfortable, and luminous. This is a delicious read to sink into, switching back and forth between Veda's suburban Vancouver upbringing among a close-knit group of friends and a surreal bus heist in NYC. There's something here for every reader- tense crime drama, poignant coming-of-age narrative, vivid-characters, a thwarted romance, and so much more. For fans of Maile Meloy, Emma Straub, and Meg Wolitzer.
Jul 10, 2017 rated it liked it
*2.5 stars*

The book opens with the main character Veda involved in a hostage situation on a New York City bus. After the opening chapter, the story jumps back in time to Veda's childhood in Vancouver. The rest of the book alternates between this childhood in which Veda's brother and their circle of friends play a predominant role, the hostage situation, and many points in between.

I'm afraid that I didn't love this book. Although the writing was good, I just didn't connect with any of the charac
Lisa Nikolits
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very moving and beautiful story – it has a central, gripping plot for sure, of the bus hijacking – but for me, the central tension revolved around the difficulties of growing up. How do we grow into our own skins, and how do we relate to our siblings and friends as they find their peace (or not) of being adults in a trying reality? Perfectly paced and written with Grace O'Connell's tight signature prose, I am hoping for a sequel.
May 19, 2017 rated it liked it
In Be Ready for the Lightnng, the storyline moves back and forth between Veda's life in Vancouver beginning in her childhood and a hostage taking on a bus in New York. Grace O'Connell writes very well, it just seemed as if the two plot lines didn't gel. The back story took away from the hostage incident as I was anxious to return to Veda's life in Vancouver with her mercurial brother, Conrad. Not quite to my tastes, but it will be enjoyed by many.

Thanks to Penguin Random House Canada for an ARC
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This story of a woman who survived a hostage situation on a bus is fascinating. It is well written and the characters memorable. The question of what causes an ordinary person to erupt into violence is one no one seems able to answer. Another great book by a Canadian writer. Thanks to Goodreads for the giveaway.
Victoria Shepherd
Jul 14, 2018 rated it liked it
A powerful examination of the strength of the human bond in even unfathomable circumstances.
Kelsi H
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Please read all of my reviews at!

Be Ready for the Lightning is a fascinating story about a hostage situation on a New York City bus, as experienced by a young woman named Veda, and the long-lasting connection she feels for her attacker. The novel is punctuated by this extreme event, but it is also a close-up look at Veda’s life before and after the incident, and her complicated relationship with her brother Conrad and their childhood friends.

Veda and Conrad gr
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
I was interested in this title because of the fact that it was set in Vancouver (Very few books are and I think it's a shame because it's such a beautiful city). Unfortunately I found myself quite underwhelmed throughout the read. O'Connell does have a gift when it comes to imagery, but I found the story to be less than captivating. It's dangerous to tell a story as a reminiscence from the main characters point of view, and in this case I think it works against the author by taking away from the ...more
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveways
Phenomenal! "Be Ready For The Lightning" by Grace O'Connell is a wonderful book!

The storyline follows Veda a girl involved in a hostage situation. Her character arc is fascinating and there is a perfect amount of character development for her character. Grace has done a good job creating her character and the development for Veda is on point! Accompanying Veda is a fantastic cast of supporting characters. All of them bring unique characteristics to the story. Each character is memorable and they
Alexander Kosoris
Oct 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, ifoa, pop-fiction
Be Ready for the Lightning follows the narrator Veda’s life before and after a traumatic event – being trapped aboard a Manhattan bus during a violent hostage situation. The story centres around the fractious relationship between Veda, her brother, Conrad, and their core group of friends as they all attempt to approach normalcy in their lives despite addictions issues, Veda’s crippling anxiety, Conrad constantly picking fights with strangers, and things just generally not turning out the way the ...more
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian-lit
O'Connell has a gift for imagery, for dialogue, for writing--and this skill makes Be Ready for the Lightning a great read.

Veda has always kinda floated through life, doing things more because she was expected to than actually following some inner desire. As a result she finds herself somewhat lost, not really knowing who she is and wondering why she lets life, and people, walk all over her. But then she gets caught up in a hostage situation on a bus, and everything changes.

The story switches bac
Ryley (Ryley Reads)
Thanks so much to NetGalley for providing me with ane-ARC of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.

I thought this book was going to be just a thriller, but I am so glad it turned out to be so much more than that.

The story follows the main character, Veda, in two timelines: one present day and one beginning in childhood and progressing forward until the two timelines meet. In the present day, Veda is visiting some friends in New York City and while she's riding the bu
Anne Logan
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it

There’s a lot to love about Grace O’Connell’s sophomore effort, the first being the wonderful title. I’m not sure what it is exactly, but the phrase”Be Ready for the Lightning” seems to be a call for action and alertness as you begin reading which builds the anticipation until major events begin to take place. But unlike a typical crime thriller, this is a very literary book, delving into the protagonist’s inner life just as much as what’s going on around her.

I don’t want to give anything away s
Jun 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
The #wastemytime trend from 2016 carried over into 2017 with this book. The premise sounded really interesting; the main character gets trapped on a bus with a gunman, the windows are spray painted black so the police can't see in, and he holds them hostage. Sounds interesting enough right? Except this book did the complete opposite.

You would get 3 long (boring) chapters of her life thus far, and then get one small taste of her being on the bus. With about 100 pages left we get an entire chapter
Kat Dietrich
Be Ready for the Lightning by Grace O'Connell is a work of fiction.

First, let me thank NetGalley, the publisher, and of course the author, for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Second, I must confess that this is not my normal genre, so although I my rating may not be high, I know the majority of people will eat this one up. The three stars that I give this book is solely for the prose. O'Connell is a really good writer.

I did, however, have a problem with the
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada and Grace O'Connell for the free advance copy!

3.5 Stars

Veda, an audiologist from Vancouver with a complicated circle of family and friends, moves to New York where she becomes an unlikely victim - and hero - of hostage situation on a Manhattan bus.

From the first page, I really enjoyed this book. The prologue is gripping and the protagonist is engaging, interesting and her voice is well-written. This book had the potential to be five-stars, but it meanders
Zoë Danielle
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
A semi-recent giveaway win, I'm not sure I would have picked up Be Ready for the Lightning by Grace O'Connell on my own otherwise, but I was intrigued enough by the synopsis–plus, it's a Canadian author–to give the book a try. This is the story of Veda, who finds herself on a bus in a hostage situation. The story then switches to her childhood in Vancouver, to the bond she had with her brother, despite his violent tendencies, and to the situations that lead to her being on that bus in the first ...more
Apr 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: for-review
I have mixed feelings about this one... Grace O'Connell is definitely a talented writer and she manages to include a number of very poignant and striking observations about memory, growing up and family in a story that still has a lot of engaging plot elements. And yet, sometimes I felt like the novel was trying to do too much. The whole multiculturalism bit felt very forced and while of course it's timely, I failed to see the connection between that theme and the rest of the book. That being sa ...more
Guillaume Boisset
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The book begins with a gunman blowing out the brains of a NYC bus driver at the start of a hostage taking situation and then flashes backward in time into a retelling of the narrator's life and how she got into this predicament. The story moves along at a good clip and the characters are believable and approachable. Of course, the fact that she talks about growing up on certain streets in Vancouver that I know well did contribute to the ease with which I grew attached to this book, but I still w ...more
Apr 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: giveaways
Veda and her brother Conrad (Connie) are the main characters in a group of five close friends that grew up together. Everyone tip toes around Conrad's constant fighting that began in adolescence, which to me, is the meaning for the title. Veda and Conrad's parents ruminate over why Conrad didn't change after high school. The expectation for him to attend university and then get a proper job was shattered when he didn't snap out of it.

Narrator Veda hooks up with one of The Five, Ted, and they fa
Karen Lowe
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways
This is a wonderful book! Grace O'Connell has created living characters that leap off the page. We follow Veda through some of her childhood events and see her friends and relations with all their good and bad traits. Their actions and choices resonated through her, revealing that we never know if we said the right thing or made the right choice. Reasons for actions and reactions, as well as how those truly affect others, are unknowable in others and in ourselves.
We watch as she remembers and fo
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
A well-written book about the complexities of sibling relationships. As other reviewers have said, it begins with an intense action scene, but spends most of its time on the main character's backstory. I liked how the story went back and forth between the present and the past -- it helped explain Veda's response to the violent scene on the bus, drawing parallels between the Peter the hostage taker and Conrad, Veda's brother.

It's not an action-packed page turner, but the undercurrent of suspense
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a very quick read. It was intriguing to be flashing back to the bus hijack, and to before Veda's move from Vancouver to New York. This novel was very compelling and definitely made you want to find out what exactly happened on the bus, and what led Veda to leave her home town. There is a lot more layers happening within this novel other than just the bus hijack. The relationships in Veda's life aren't always the most positive, and I think that is something everyone will be able to relat ...more
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received this book in a goodreads giveaway. I was hooked on this book just a few pages into it. I forgot the synopsis before I started reading it, adding to my intrigue with Veda's current terror/dilemma and her back story of growing up in Vancouver. It seems that all the books I've been reading lately are split time lines, which can be hard to keep straight, but are such an enjoyable puzzle to piece together. I found Veda's complex and detailed life's story so interesting that if I didn't kno ...more
Aug 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Received a free copy for honest review

Veda has had a troubled life. She has had to deal with her increasingly hostile and violent brother. She leaves her hometown and heads to New York for a new start when she and others are taken hostage on a city bus . The young, troubled man who holds them hostage is named Peter. Veda finds herself taken in by this troubled young man. I found the characters and the story rather boring. The relationships between the characters was often weird and over the top.
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I’m a Toronto-based writer and editor and the author of Magnified World (Random House, 2012). I’m represented by Martha Magor Webb at McDermid & Associates and my publicist is Ruta Liormonas at McClelland & Stewart.

My work has appeared in publications including The Walrus, Taddle Creek, the Globe & Mail, the National Post, Quill & Quire and the Journey Prize Stories. I’ve been nomi