Review--"Fireflies In December" by Jennifer Valent
Tyndale Fiction, Published 2008, 345 pages
A Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel Winner 2007
I am always excited to do a book review on a new author. I feel that I am walking along with them (or following them) on their journey as a published writer. I also with keen interest anticipate watching their development and maturity as a writer in their future books.
I bought the book "Fireflies In December" earlier this year, but put off reading it until October, because my book club for women at Church was having a book discussion on it November 1. I wanted my memory of the book to be fresh since I was leading the discussion.
Our book discussion was lively, and included even 1 man. We shared memories of and stories we'd heard of segregation in schools, violence against African Americans, the KKK, how often officials in charge such as the police were apart of the violence, and seeing signs that read for "colored's only."
As a gal of the south I have known people that hated those of another race, period. Most of the people I have encountered have not felt this way.
When I worked in a hospital from 1987-2000, often we would have elderly men and women as patients state, "they wanted no black nurse taking care of them." It was as if this idea came from another world--another time. It is a thought pattern that I hope slips away, permanently.
"Fireflies In December" is a story of 2 adolescent girls that are friends, Jessilyn and Gemma. Jessilyn is white and Gemma is black. Neither care that their skin tone is different, they only care for their loving bond of friendship. The year is 1932 and they live in Virginia. Jemma's parents die in a fire and she goes to live with Jessilyn and her parents. This arrangement is unheard of in the south and in the 1930's; after all people talk, it makes them uncomfortable, and things could happen.
I loved the southern language, figures of speech, and culture that was described in the characters.
I felt the author did a remarkable job of taking the reader back in time to the thought patterns and reactions of the depression era south.
Both Jessilyn and Gemma are adolescent girls with all of the growing angst, uncertainty, and awkwardness, I felt this was expressed well.
Other characters that are brought in to the story are Jessilyn's parents, other town folk and neighbors---some of which are vile vermin.
The story follows the main theme of the arrangement of Gemma living with a white family, and the complexities of that; yet other issues are developed as well.
What I love most about this book is that it causes us to ponder, discuss, and glimpse a vision of how far we have come and how far we have yet to go, in our attitudes of race.
I also love the unbreakable bond of love and friendship that is displayed in Jessilyn and Gemma.
Jennifer Valent's newest book is "Cottonwood Whispers."
P.S. Jennifer Valent thanked me on my Facebook wall for my review of "Fireflies In December."
You welcome Jennifer!