Monday, March 29, 2010

Fireworks Over Toccoa

The quotes on the front and back covers of Fireworks Over Toccoa, Jeffrey Stepakoff's debut novel coming out in hardcover tomorrow, use words like 'luminous,' 'heartbreaking,' 'mesmerizing,' and 'spellbinding.'  The image of a couple holding each other close under a sky of twinkling stars combines with those assessments to give a reader the impression that love will abound in these pages, which is technically accurate, if not necessarily in the form one might expect.  I also have to admit that I didn't expect to be as completely swept away by this story as I was, reduced to a sobbing blob upon my couch by the final pages.

Okay, that really can't be considered a spoiler of sorts, because I cry at books for a whole mess of reasons- happy and sad and everything in between.  What my reaction does reveal, though, is that the characters in this book came alive for me, and their stories affected me deeply, making my brain swirl and my emotions go haywire.

The central story of this novel takes place in 1940's Toccoa, Georgia, a Southern community awaiting the homecoming of so many of their hometown boys from wartime duty.  Just weeks before shipping out, Paul Woodward courted and married Lily Davis, the perfect spouse for the perfect daughter of the local Coca-Cola executive.  He purchased her the picture-perfect house in town, and then it was time to go off to fight in the war, leaving Lily behind with her new title of married woman but so very little experience in the role.  Three years and four months go by, and suddenly Lily's husband is on his way home, and her perfect life can resume, just as planned.

Or, everything can be turned upside down.

A chance meeting with a stranger in town working on the elaborate fireworks display for the town's welcoming home celebration throws everything Lily ever assumed about love, her heart's longing, and her future for a loop.  Questions of being true to oneself and being loyal to family and commitments aren't easily asked or answered, and the intricacies of love aren't always easily maneuvered.

Really, all those adjectives used on the covers hit the bullseye, time and again.  A love story presented with palpable emotion, unflinching in its presentation that life and love can be complicated and unexpected, with no clear cut "right" path.  It's a really quick read, and quite honestly, it lends itself perfectly to being read in one sitting.  But if you wear your heart in your tear ducts like me, be sure to put a Kleenex box nearby before getting comfy. 

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Over at 5 Minutes for Books, we're really pleased to be working with the good people of St. Martin's Press to promote Jeffrey Stepakoff's novel Fireworks Over ToccoaIn addition to encouraging you to visit the author's website, or to become a fan of Jeffrey Stepakoff's Facebook page, we also want to get a copy of this beautiful book in your hands!  If you're a book blogger yourself, this offer is for you.  Maybe you don't blog, but you have a great group of pals in your book club, and you think this would make the perfect read for your peeps in April or May.  Book club folks, you gotta read this offer.

My illustrious editor Jennifer has reviewed this as well, so if you want a second opinion, you can read her review of Fireworks Over Toccoa on 5 Minutes for Books, too.  And since we're helping folks to get the book, we of course want to know what everyone thinks about it!  To do that, we'll be encouraging people to participate in bookclub-like discussions on the site and on their blogs, too.  More on that soon.


Drying my eyes and looking forward to hearing if others are reduced to tears,