Title: Fireworks Over Toccoa
Author: Jeffrey Stepakoff
Publisher:Thomas Dunne Books (2010)
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Book Source: Advance Reader Edition from publisher.
Book Release: April 2010
Fireworks Over Toccoa is set right at the end of World War II. The protagonist Lily has only been married for a few days and then separated from her husband by the war. Now that he is finally returning after so long Lily has to find the courage to become a wife to someone who may have changed just as much as she has. In the few days preceding his return, Lily's preparations to move into their home are interrupted by a chance meeting with her soul mate.
The characters in this novel are not developed in great detail, but just enough to portray the story. The setting is very important to the book because it is the cultural expectations of a young woman specifically from Toccoa that provided a lot of the conflict. In order to fully understand the protagonists dilemma, you had to understand the heavy weight of expectations placed on her due to her social setting. One of the major themes is the vast divide between the public and private 'self'. Lily literally puts on an entire persona for her visits to town.
Jeffrey Stepakoff has written quite an emotional story, but has kept it fairly simple and elegant. The main story is actually a flashback that is framed in the beginning and ending by a present day thread. This allowed the love story that takes place over a very short time, to be placed in the context of Lily's whole life. By including the protagonists older self the story gained depth and poignancy. It also highlighted the tragic timing of the events of Lily's life and how just a few days had such a deep impact on her.
Fireworks Over Toccoa was an emotionally intense love story. It was quite impacting for such a small book. It sparks thoughts about fate, and the importance of life choices. The themes were interesting. I always enjoy novels that discuss the idea of the authentic, inner life struggling with surface appearances and social expectations. In this case, the issue was not too simplified. The choice to live for others and to conform to social traditions at the expense of one's own desires was given due weight as an option. My main criticism of this book is that the plot was based on some pretty wild coincidences. I won't list them all because it would give away too much. Just be prepared to fully suspend your disbelief if you choose to pick this one up.
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