Wow. This book was amazing. In all honesty, I was planning to skim the story in order to do this review because I was getting a bit behind in my reading load. I quickly discovered that there would be no skimming of this book. I was gripped from page one and followed it faithfully through to the regrettable end. The only reason that the end was regrettable, by the way, was because it was just that – the end. I could have handled another few hundred pages myself. The story is that good.
The main protagonist in Fireflies in December is thirteen year old Jessilyn Lassiter who lives with her family on a farm in southern Virginia in the year 1932. Her father had the “misfortune” of viewing the colored folk as equals whereas the majority of the population in their small town did not agree. This book is a story of race, yes, but it goes beyond that to address issues of the heart. I think the book can be best summed up by one of its own sentences:
” . . . hard hearts have long memories.” (page 148)
The Lassiter family employed colored folk (btw, that’s how they are referred to in the story and I’m just using the same phrase). Jessilyn’s daddy was close friends with one of his workers who died in a fire as a result of a lightening storm. Before the worker died he asked Mr. Lassiter to care for his younger daughter, Gemma, and Mr. Lassitor agrees to do so. Jessilyn and Gemma are close friends, having grown up together, although society does make an attempt to segregate them from each other. Folks aren’t real pleased when dark Gemma moves in with the Lassiter family. The Ku Klux Klan becomes involved and things get a little dicey and frightening. Troubles continue to overwhelm the family as they stand for what they believe is right: knowing that God created all men/nationalities/races equally.
Fireflies in December is eye-opening, haunting, suspenseful and just plain moving. I highly recommend it to anyone. This book was just released in 2008 and I, for one, hope it continues to gain in popularity. It’s an amazing story.
It’s earmarked for teens but at 343 pages it reads well for ages 13 and up. Although there are some coming-of-age-issues, author Jennifer Erin Valent handles them quite tastefully. She hints at things but makes no explicit statements. She made me feel “comfortable” as a reader in knowing that she wasn’t going to be too graphic. At the same time, she easily makes her point.
This book falls into my “you must read this!” category of books. It makes you think. It makes you hurt, feel, laugh and nod your head with grave understanding, knowing how far we’ve come as a nation here in America. Nicely done! Nicely done!
Carrie comes by her book obsession honestly, having descended from a long line of bibliophiles. She blogs about books regularly at Reading to Know.