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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 497

In Thunder and Light, Blais continues the stories of many of the characters that she introduced in These Festive Nights, but here she concentrates more on what actually happens to the characters than on what they are thinking. She also adds characters drawn from or based upon actual events recorded in news reports.

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The novel begins with Carlos running with his dog Polly. Carlos is determined to get even with Lazaro, an Egyptian immigrant who used to be his friend. Carlos intends to frighten him with an unloaded gun, but as fate will have it the gun is loaded and Carlos shoots Lazaro in the knee. He becomes what Pastor Jeremy and Mama always said he would—a no-good and a criminal.

Through the characters of Lazaro and Caroline’s companion Charly, Blais addresses the problem of the ever-recurring cycle of violence in the world. Lazaro swears to have revenge for Carlos’s act. His mother unsuccessfully tells him he must forgive Carlos, otherwise all of her actions have been pointless. His mother had rebelled against the unjust religious law that permitted her Muslim husband to confine and beat her. Lazaro, however, refuses to listen and rejects his mother. He was born Muslim and male and his heritage calls for vengeance. Charly, a Jamaican descendant of slaves, voices the same desire for revenge based on heritage. Carlos’s sister Venus is also victimized by the circumstances of her birth. Venus had escaped a life of poverty by marrying a rich drug dealer, Captain Williams, but the captain has been killed and she now finds herself at the mercy of the captain’s estate manager, Richard, who has her trapped in the house.

In this novel, Blais deals at length with the impossibility of eliminating suffering and anguish from human life. She juxtaposes characters who try to relieve suffering and characters who escape from it in art, creativity, and beauty. Asoka is a monk who every day witnesses the anguish and death of innocent people, especially children, as he ministers to the victims of war, while his brother Ari devotes himself to sculpting. Caroline, a photographer, has always photographed only beautiful people and objects. She refuses to record images of the victims of violence, war, and starvation, in contrast to the photojournalists, who with their photographs stamp these images into the minds of their readers.

The memorial service for Jean-Mathieu returns to the problem of mortality and God in a suffering world. Caroline muses on the death of her friend, on the exile of each person from the sensual world, and on the sense of loss and absence that comes to each individual.

Blais returns to the stream-of-consciousness technique she employed in These Festive Nights in her analysis of the impossibility of justice in the world and the cruelty of capital punishment. Tormented by the willingness of most judges to pronounce the death penalty, Renata thinks of nothing else as she prepares for a conference on the topic.

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