Fireflies in December = 18 down, 82 to go

7 Jan

Historical fiction
Fireflies in December
Jennifer Erin Valent
362 pages

Jessilyn Lassiter finds the summer of her thirteenth year to be one of seemingly insurmountable challenges and tribulations. The book – which was a free Kindle for iPhone download – takes place in a small Virginian town in the 1930s where racism still runs rampant.

Her best friend, Gemma, is an African-American girl whose parents work for the Lassiters. When the parents die in a fire, Jessilyn’s father takes Gemma into his home to be raised as if she were his own daughter. The result is hatred and consternation among the townspeople, who are unable to comprehend his actions.

During a summer where she is growing up and coming into her own, Jessilyn finds herself caught up in suspicious happenings at every turn, including a cross burning and a murder trial. Additionally, she spends the majority of the book believing that she killed a man when the KKK attack her home and she used her father’s shotgun to chase them off.

The book does a good job of capturing the challenges faced by most 13-year-old girls. She can be stubborn, short sighted and unable to see the impact of her decisions on the situation and others. But she is a fierce friend to Gemma in the face of the threat of harm to them both. It demonstrates the power of love and loyalty in the face of hatred and racism by Gemma, Jessily and her parents. This quote – from which I’m assuming the book is named – captures our purpose in this world succinctly:

The 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.

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