Monday, April 16, 2012

The Firefly Dance anthology

It has been more than a year since we had a new novel from Sarah Addison Allen. Thankfully, there is news of her next book coming out in 2013 and the title will be Lost Lake. Because there has been no new book, the instant I saw this book on Netgalley I had to have it. To be honest, the only thing I knew about it was that it contained a new Sarah Addison Allen story. I hadn't even heard of any of the other authors, didn't know what the theme of the collection was or anything like that.

I was actually contemplating only reading the SAA story, but to have done so would have short changed myself and the publisher who made it available on Netgalley. I did have to force myself to read the others, not because I didn't want to but rather because the file was about to expire so I was running out of time.

First story is The Stocking Store by Phyllis Scheiber features a young woman looking back to the regular trip that she made with her mother to the stocking store, and in particular to a meeting with another young girl from her class whose mother was a survivor of the concentration camps of Europe. This was a very short story but it was quite poignant, looking not only at the issue of the survivors but also on how times have changed over the years.

There is also an excerpt from this author's book called The Manicurist.

Petey by Kathryn Magendie was the longest of the stories and there were times in the narrative that the story just leapt off the pages. There were, however, other times when the pace just was too slow.

The story focused on a young girl named Petey who was moving from her idyllic life in North Carolina amongst the mountains to the hot, dusty plains of Fort Worth, Texas due to her father needing to find work. The whole family seemed to be unhappy at the move and the new house that they are going to be living in,, but it is nothing compared to the despair they face not long after arriving. At this stage, the narrative felt quite oppressive and it really only changed with the introduction of the character of Anna. It was a little too obvious that she was introduced as a catalyst to change things for both Petey and the rest of her family. Towards the end of the novella though I was definitely enjoying the transition that was happening, especially with Petey's mother, and I was definitely hungry as I was reading.

The Sarah Addison Allen 'story' is titled In My Dreams, and is in effect a collection within the anthology because the story is made up of six different vignettes that let us glimpse into specific events in the life of a young girl named Louise who lives with her mother (her father having died recently in the first story), and next door to her great aunt Sophie. The stories weren't actually written as one group of anecdotes either as evidenced by the fact that the copyrights on the individual stories range from 2006 to 2008

Of the characters in this collection, Sophie is definitely one that I could see making the transition to SAA's other works. Whilst the southern charm that forms such a strong part of SAA's other books is there, there is none of her other trademark that I like to think of as magical-realism-lite.

The first story was Fly by Night; Louise is staying the night at her great aunt Sophies and watching her mother. Her father has died not too long ago but the question is how well is her mother dealing with her grief.

In Nothing Disastrous Louisa's mother has had breast cancer and is celebrating the first anniversary of losing her breasts (kind of timely seeing as SAA has been going through her own battle with the disease. The preacher's new wife comes to town.

The third story is Lazarus and Louise's mother is getting remarried and no one can find her wedding shoes.

In The Wayfarer Louise's grandfather comes to visit. Great Aunt Sophie never approved of the man that her sister ran off with. Louise has never met him before, but she is not the only one to learn something new.

In God's Honest Truth at the Fashionette, Sophie is late for her weekly appointment at the hair salon and in I'll See You in My Dreams we hear the story of how Sophie met her husband, Harry. "Never marry a man who can't dance."

The Resurrection by Augusta Trobaugh - I will admit to skimming this one because from the very beginning I had no clue what was going on with this story! I kind of got what the author was trying to do with it, but it just didn't work for me at all.

According to the publisher blurb below, the link between these stories is supposed to be the challenges faced by children, but I am not sure that the link is all that obvious if you just read the stories themselves. As a collection, this one didn't really work for me. I may be a little cynical, but I wasn't quite sure what the point of releasing the Sarah Addison Allen stories were other than having something out there during the gaps between the last book and her next one, and also that the publisher hung the collection around the fact that there was a big name author involved. I guess that isn't really that unusual really.

Rating 2.5/5

Bright lights flicker in the dark evenings of summer. Pinpoints of hope float against the black descent of night. The sweetest of small and innocent creatures finds its way through the shadows. Fireflies seem to dance on sheer air, illuminating the space between heartbeats.

Children give off a similar brave glow, despite the challenges of their young lives. The lessons of childhood are often painful, the shedding of fragile wings in the gloam of an uncertain future. These rich novellas are small jewels reflecting the essence of what it means to grow up dancing among the shadows of life, carrying a brave, small beacon because you know that even the brightest days always, always, end in darkness.

Childhood can be so sweetly sad and sadly sweet, profound and deceptively easy to categorize, yet poignant to remember.

New York Times bestselling novelist Sarah Addison Allen (GARDEN SPELLS, SUGAR QUEEN, THE PEACH KEEPER) anchors THE FIREFLY DANCE with her wistful and funny novella about Louise, a North Carolina girl whose keen observations of the lives around her weaves an unforgettable spell with just a hint of everyday magic.

Phyllis Schieber's Sonya, a child of Holocaust survivors, is confronted with the responsibilities of her legacy when she has a poignant encounter with a classmate, another child of survivors, and her mother, in a local shop in their 1970's New York neighborhood.

Kathryn Magendie’s Petey deals wryly with her family’s move from the cool blue mountains of North Carolina to the hot flatlands of Texas.

Augusta Trobaugh’s stoic Georgia girl leads us through her surreal encounter with a mysterious backwoods toddler who turns out to be anything but ordinary.


  1. I've been trying to read this one, too, and just not getting into it. I read The Stocking Store, and while the writing wasn't bad, it was way too short and underdeveloped to impact me in any way. I honestly couldn't believe this was something accepted for publication--like you said, what was the point? As a result, I haven't been too motivated to read the other stories.

    I still want to read the SAA, but I'm not sure I'll finish the others.

    1. Beth, I don't think you are alone in not wanting to read the others.

  2. I would read this one just for the Addison Allen story, but it sounds like there is more to the book that I might enjoy as well. This was a really intriguing review, and one that might inspire me to pop over to Netgalley and check things out!

    1. Maybe you will like it more than I did Zibilee.



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