They have one summer to find what was lost long ago.
Never settle for less than the truth, she told him. But when you don't even know your real name, the truth gets a little complicated. It can nestle so close to home it's hard to see. It can even flourish inside a lie. And as Chase Walker discovered, learning the truth about who you are can be as elusiveâand as magicalâas chasing fireflies on a summer night.A haunting story about fishing, baseball, home cooking, and other matters of life and death.
In his fifth novel, Martin (Maggie; When Crickets Cry) offers the same brand of sentimental Southern storytelling that has endeared him to readers. Just before T-boning her Impala into a train, a woman on a suicide run kicks her horrifically abused little boy, known only as Snoot--or to the state, John Doe 117--out of the car. Chase Walker, a reporter for the Brunswick Daily in Glen County, Ga., is assigned to follow up on the boy, whose abandonment mirrors Chase's own haunted past. The little boy, apparently mute, is an artistic prodigy who excels at chess and quickly works his way into Chase's heart. Martin's strength is in his memorable characters, especially Uncle Willie, whose fresh quips ("as out of place in South Georgia as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs"), penchant for Krispy Kreme doughnuts and mysterious past keep readers engrossed. Here, as in some of his other novels, Martin can't resist piling on unnecessary tragedies; his characters and their issues are enough to keep the pages turning. Although the plot needs fine-tuning, Martin's prose is lovely, and the flashback parallel stories of a grown man abandoned as a child and the neglected boy will ensure readers keep the Kleenex handy. (June)
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February 11, 2008
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Excerpt from Chasing Fireflies by Charles Martindale
Chapter One #xD;I stepped out into the sunlight humming a Pat Green tune, slipped on my sunglasses, and stared out over the courthouse steps. After three days of incarceration, not much had changed. Brunswick, Georgia, was like that. Discarded bubblegum, flat as half-dollars, dotted the steps like splattered ink. Lazy, blimpish pigeons strutted the sidewalk begging for bread scraps or the sprinkles off somebody's double-shot mocha latte. In the alley across the street, an entire herd of stray cats crept toward the wharf just four blocks down. The sound of seagulls told them the shrimp boats had returned. And on the steps next to me, two officers lifted a tattooed man, whose feet and hands were shackled and cuffed, up the steps and, undoubtedly, into Judge Thaxton's courtroom. Based on the mixture of saliva and epithets coming out of his mouth, he wasn't too crazy about going. No worries. Given my experience with Her Honor, his stay in her courtroom wouldn't be long. #xD;His next short-term home would be a holding cell downstairs. These were cold, dark, windowless, and little more than petri dishes for mold and fungi. I know this because I've been in them on more than one occasion. The first time I stayed here as a guest, I scratched Chase was here into the concrete block wall. This time I followed it up with Twice. Makes me laugh to think about it. Sort of following in Unc's footsteps. #xD;Two blocks down, rising above the rest of town like the Ferris wheel at a county fair, stood the bell tower above the Zuta Bank and Trust. Most churches-turned-banks have that. At the turn of the century, its Russian Orthodox congregation had dwindled down to nothing, leaving the priest to roam the basement like the Phantom in his catacomb. #xD;And while the Silver Meteor was the most famous rail ever to run these woods, she couldn't hold a candle to the one that ran underground. #xD;When the first Russian immigrants appeared in the late 1800s, they built on an existing footprint. A hundred years earlier, the local inhabitants had built their own meetinghouse. The building served several purposes: town hall, church, and shelter. Unique to the structure was a basement. Because much of South Georgia rests so close to the water table, they dug the basement into a hill, then lined the walls and floors with several feet of coquina. This did not mean it stayed dry, but it was dry enough. Through two trapdoors and one hidden stairwell, the townsfolk survived multiple Indian attacks and two Spanish burnings of the building above. Few today know about the basement. Maybe just the four of us. Sure, folks know it was there at one time, but most think it was filled in when the ZB&T was built. Scratchings on the walls show the names of slaves who knelt in the dark, listened, and prayed while dogs sniffed above. #xD;Eventually the Phantom vacated as well, leaving the building empty for nearly a decade. Hating to see it go to waste and needing a place from which to loan money, a local businessman bought the building, ripped out half the pews, one confessional, and most of the altar, and installed counters and a vault. Local sentiment swayed in his favor. The depression was still fresh on people's minds, and in that mind-set you couldn't let a perfectly good building go to waste. If you built the church, don't take it personally. Just because folks around here don't like your brand of God doesn't mean they don't like your brand of architecture. Count your blessings. Most in Glynn County echoed this sentiment. Some of the locals proudly traced their roots to the Founding Fathers--the English prisoners sent from England to inhabit the colony back before the Revolution. Such sentiment was not unique; folks in Australia did the same. In the sticks of Brunswick, Georgia, rebellion was as hardwired into