Book Buzz Episode 31 – We Are the Light & No Ordinary Assignment

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Air date: Jan. 7, 2024

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We Are the Light

No Ordinary Assignment

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Hi, this is Jessica Russell. I’m the assistant director of collection services at Sno-Isle Libraries. And welcome to Book Buzz.

Today's reading recommendations include people facing tragedy: a fictional high school counselor, and a real-life war correspondent.

First, we’re going to hear from Ruth, librarian at the Mountlake Terrace Library, for a story of healing. Go ahead, Ruth.


Matthew Quick’s stories often feature quirky characters facing a devastating event, getting through it in an unconventional way, and bonding with some unlikely strangers in the process.

In “We Are the Light,” Lucas, a high school counselor, has just experienced a tragedy that killed his wife, along with 16 other people in his small Pennsylvania town. Lucas knocks at the door of his Jungian analyst but there’s no answer, so he begins to write letters to the therapist: the book is told through these letters.

Soon an orange tent appears in Lucas’ backyard. It’s Eli, the brother of the kid who caused the tragedy, and who’s now hated and ostracized. Neither Lucas nor Eli are able to return to the high school, so Lucas decides to help Eli with a special project that can earn him a high school diploma: making a monster movie. As the project proceeds, more characters are pulled into the event. As Lucas heals, there is a slow reveal of what really happened on the night of the tragedy, showing how the mind will protect us until we are ready to deal with our losses.

I love stories about human resiliency and the ability to heal, forgive and connect. I also love Matthew Quick’s poignant humor and his outcast characters that break free of social limits. If you liked Matthew Quick’s novel, “The Silver Linings Playbook,” you’ll love this book too.


Thanks, Ruth! It’s nice to hear that this tragic story includes some humor too.

Next, let’s hear about a war correspondent’s biography, from Acquisitions Assistant Kerry. Take it away, Kerry.


As a journalist, Jane Ferguson has reported on wars in places ranging from Afghanistan to Yemen, and from Iraq to South Sudan. Her memoir, “No Ordinary Assignment,” is an exciting and intimate look at how and why war correspondents do what they do in the era of global conflict.

In her clear and engaging style, Ferguson details her experiences growing up in Northern Ireland, sharing how both “the Troubles” between Catholics and Protestants there, as well as family tensions at home, made her long to break away and explore the wider world.

Insatiable curiosity, an incredible work ethic, and a couple of lucky breaks enabled her to achieve her dreams. On the way, however, Ferguson also realizes that the life of a witness to war presents its own conflicts: Is it enough just to investigate and report on violence and destruction? Can journalists make a difference — or should they even try? The author carefully considers these questions, and her perspectives and experiences provide a fascinating exploration of the personal and political consequences of war for everyone involved.

For more on female war correspondents, I’d also recommend “The Kindness of Strangers” by Kate Adie, “On All Fronts" by Clarissa Ward, and “The Education of an Idealist” by Samantha Power.


Thanks, Kerry! I love hearing the perspectives of women in traditionally male-dominated roles.

Our recommendations this week are: “We Are the Light” by Matthew Quick and “No Ordinary Assignment” by Jane Ferguson.

Join us next time, when we’ll explore more great reading recommendations — interesting books you can find at your favorite local bookstore or at your local library.

Until then, I’m Jessica Russell from Sno-Isle Libraries.

Thanks for joining us for Book Buzz on KSER.

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