Seduction by Light is Mamie Franklin’s story of her life and transition to death as she tells it in an exuberant, colloquial style. As if she were speaking in a conversation over coffee between old friends, Mamie often directly addresses readers: “You must know me well enough by now to know I’m kinda halfway out there mosta the time anyway.” Mamie’s monologue captures the earthy wit and wisdom of the former actress and band singer from Mississippi who works until her death as a domestic servant for an eccentric Hollywood couple.
The first part of the novel concerns Mamie’s relationship to her common-law husband, Burley Cole, whose death by heart attack in chapter 7 does not end their close relationship or his presence in the novel. Burley appears throughout the novel as a messenger to Mamie from beyond this world. He instructs her about the meaning of her own out-of-body travels, especially after she collapses on the sidewalk outside her house in Santa Monica, California, after the house is destroyed by an earthquake.
The aftermath of the devastating earthquake that rocks Santa Monica is the dramatic focus of the novel’s second half. The neck injuries Mamie sustains after being struck by debris as she escapes from her home with her young lover, Theo, cause the physical collapse that leads to Mamie’s spectacular travels into the unconscious realm, where she hovers in a dream state that is connected to both life and death. In her out-of-body travels, Mamie realizes important spiritual lessons, such as that her true spirit resides in a place distinct from the shell of her dying body.
Besides using her gift for double-sightedness to stay in contact with her late husband, Burley, and to perform her own out-of-body traveling, Mamie also contacts one of her heroes, the American patriot and inventor Ben Franklin. Mamie realizes that her connection to Ben Franklin stems from his helping to found a new nation, which is, in a metaphorical sense, related to Mamie’s enthusiasm for going...
(The entire section is 831 words.)