It’s 1965, and Gia is a 13 year old living in Queens, in a working class neighborhood that backs onto a swimming canal that leads out to the bay. She loves the canal, cares deeply about nature and science, and doesn’t fit well into her Italian-Catholic family, who want her to worry about boys and make-up and dances instead. She’s part of a close-knit family group who gather outside her home every Sunday afternoon; her nuclear family which includes her older brother Leo, 15, and the families of her mother’s 2 sisters. When a frenzy of sparks kills the electricity one hot summer afternoon, it seems in retrospect to have been the start of everything going wrong.
Gia and her cousins long to escape the stifling confines of the narrow blocks where they live. Gia’s dream is to spend hours out alone in their boat, learning the ways of the water. But the boys want something both faster and more concrete. When her cousin Ray introduces drugs to the groups, he inadvertently plants the seeds that will lead to their dissolution.
A Frenzy of Sparks takes an in-depth look at how larger forces play out in the lives of one family. During the course of the novel, much is changing in the outside world, and while it is rarely addressed directly, these events have a huge role in shaping individual choices and outcomes. It’s a fascinating look at how we can be almost unaware and yet deeply affected by our times and circumstances. It’s also a story about family, and how love doesn’t always seem like enough to right the wrongs of the world. Thought-provoking and extremely well written. Highly recommended.