It was the title that first caught my eye but the story completely drew me in. Set in the hot summer of 1932 in western Virginia, it tells of a rural white family who took in an orphaned black girl and stood strong against all that happened because of it. It's told through the eyes of the 13-year-old daughter of the family. The title comes from advice the father tells his daughter - that to do what is right is to shine a light in a cold, dark world, like "fireflies in December."
This is the first book by Ms. Valent I have read and it is absolutely wonderful. This is a story of friendship, courage, and being a Christian during difficult times. When the parents of Jessilyn's friend Gemma, who is black, dies her father takes Gemma into their home. Not an easy thing to do in the 1930s South. Jessilyn learns first hand the destructive power of prejudice and hatred BUT also the power of forgiveness and living out one's Christian faith. Strongly recommend this novel to everyone. I am anxious to read the next 2 in this trilogy.
I wasn't sure what I would think about this book. Seeing as it was set in the 30's in the Deep Southâ€”I was honestly worried about the southern speech. Though I have lived in the South my entire lifeâ€”I cannot stand to see books with a lot of stereotypical southern speech. This book did have a lot of southern slang and speech patterns but it was more in a speaking style rather than misspelling words to point out the southern accent. Therefore, I actually did enjoy reading this book. In this story we are taken back to a time of deep prejudiceâ€”a time when the Klan was in full power. I didn't particularly enjoy some of the racial slurs used in the story because those slurs hurt me so deeply to read. I know it was necessary for the type of story but it still hurt me to feel such hatred based solely on skin color. This was a reality and I think books like this are important to remind us of the dark places we have been to in our history.
About the Story:
Jessilyn is a young girl that has just turned thirteen. Jessi and her parents have hired help that they treat more like family and when tragedy strikesâ€”the Lassiter family is determined to do the right thing by offering a home to young Gemma. This strikes fury in the hearts of the local Klan members who start to harass young Jessi and her family. From burning crosses in their yard to killing their pets and making very serious threatsâ€”this family is in turmoil but refuses to back down to the racism that is prevalent in their home town. When young Jessilyn laments that she has no idea what God expects her to do, her father catches a firefly and teaches her a beautiful lesson from which the title of the book is taken.
"That light is bright enough to light up a little speck of the night sky so a man can see it a ways away. That's what God expects us to do. We're to be lights in the dark, cold days that are this world. Like fireflies in December."
This is part one in a three-part story so while the story is concluded somewhatâ€”we do not see the full set of trials that Jessi and her parents face while providing a home to a young "colored" girl. What we do see though is a final showing of love from both the white and black community as they pull together to support a man and his family that are determined to stand for what is right in a time when it could have cost him his life. Fireflies in December is a powerful story of acceptance and love that is told from the eyes of a thirteen year old girl who is coming to age in this very trying situation. I do wish that I could have seen more of the bond between Gemma and Jessi but that is a sacrifice you pay when you're reading in first person. Otherwise I thought that while this book had some racial slurs (again, to show the situation of the day) and some violent themesâ€”it was beautifully written and could be used as a way to talk to your young teen about racism and the hurt that it causes.
I received this book free from a fantastic program called Tyndale Rewards. I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts and opinions I have expressed are my own.
This story is told through the eyes of a young girl, Jessilyn Lassiter. It takes place during the summer of her 13th birthday in the year 1932. Her family takes in the daughter of a black family that has died in a fire. The community reacts by ignoring the family, harassing them and even placing a burning cross in their yard.
This young girl learns some big life lessons. She learns that not everyone will agree with things you do and life is not fair. She also comes to realize that family is important and the love of a family is priceless.
It is a moving, believable and thought provoking story. Don't let the heavy subject of racism turn you away from reading this book. Although you feel the sadness of the times, you also feel the innocence. It is well written, easy to follow and a definite Oprah's Book Club contender. You will not want to put this book down!
I was given this book by christianreviewofbooks.com to review