Bookworm: Can you suspend belief” ‘Light is for you

Matthew Quick’s letter format evolves into a deepening mystery

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“We Are The Light”

  • By Matthew Quick
  • c. 2022, Avid Reader Press
  • $27.99 256 pages

The role is yours, but there’s no rehearsal. There was no audition for it, either; no nervous emoting in front of a panel, no solo by a piano, no fancy steps on a stage. The role is yours, but you didn’t find in a newspaper or magazine. You didn’t even know there was going to be a performance. As in the new book, “We Are The Light” by Matthew Quick, it’s a role you never really wanted.

“We Are The Light” by Matthew Quick.

Lucas Goodgame thought he and his therapist were making good progress.

And yet, Karl seemed to be shutting Lucas out. He wouldn’t answer his phone calls, wouldn’t speak to Lucas, and after the last funeral – which happened to be the funeral for Karl’s wife – the police told Lucas that he had to stop going to Karl’s house.

And so Lucas did the only thing he could do: he wrote letters.

“Dear Karl...”

For a very long time, Karl had taught Lucas about Jungian theories and mental health, every Friday evening, like clockwork. Lucas understood why Karl was silent because Lucas’s wife, Darcy, had been killed in the Majestic Theater tragedy, too, but he was sure that Karl didn’t see what happened afterward. Karl didn’t see that Darcy and all the others turned instantly into angels and flew skyward. He didn’t know that Darcy continued to visit Lucas almost every night.

“We Are The Light” author Matthew Quick.

“Dear Karl...”

As time went by, it didn’t make sense that Karl continued to avoid Lucas, even when the brother of the shooter set up a tent in Lucas’s back yard and Lucas could have used Jung’s advice. The boy was grieving, too, and when Lucas offered to help tutor him, to get him back to school, the boy said he wanted to make a movie about the tragedy instead and the project took on a life of its own. Everybody who was at the Majestic on the night of the tragedy would be in the movie, and Lucas invited Karl, who never answered.

“Dear Karl ... ”

Sometimes, your silence is cruel. Sometimes, the truth is crueler.

Reading “We Are The Light” is like watching a play along the side of a long mountain trail: it’s rocky, uneven, and sometimes you realize that it’s not really all that much fun. Additionally, in light of a recent spate of mass shootings, it’s a little tone-deaf. Even the characters’ method of healing is preposterous and readers may have difficulty imagining that it could ever happen in real life.

Fortunately, there are two things that redeem this novel: author Matthew Quick’s letter format, and the deepening mystery that slides into a howling, painful conclusion. The former plays with the idea of having a cast of characters, since one is only perpetually waiting in the wings; the latter is the perfect, slam-your-hand-against-the-tabletop surprise.

Does the good of this novel overshadow its rockiness? That depends on how you like your novels. If you like suspense and you can suspend belief, “We Are The Light” is the book for you. If not, well, roll on by …

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books. Read past columns at