TITLE: Fellowship of the Fireflies
GENRE: Literary Fiction (Magical Realism)
When his grandparents can no longer care for him on their magical Alabama farm, fifteen-year-old hemophiliac Stephen Hordsley is sent to live with his real estate czar father in Atlanta. Failing to fit inside a world of power struggles and lies, Stephen attempts suicide, landing in a children’s hospital where he meets three extraordinary kids that tell a story revealing clues to his family’s secrets.
My earliest childhood memory of death doesn’t involve the predictable backyard funeral for the family dog or flushing a goldfish down a toilet. For me it was a bonsai. I had named it Laud from a lyric in a hymn (All Glory, Laud and Honor) and it had survived two unusually harsh winters and three brutal Alabama summers on a wicker table on our front porch. For no apparent reason over one weekend when I was seven it turned as brown as a Baby Ruth candy bar and died. Oh death where is thy sting? On the porch in a rectangular dish, that’s where. With my grandparents watching, I buried my little juniper under a great big oak and cried all afternoon until the Braves game came on television after supper. Trees were very important to our little hybrid family, the “feathers of earth,” we called them, the “green of God’s imagination.”
My grandfather, Jedediah “Pappy Jed” Collins, had a bench on our farm under a “sacred willow” where he wrote sermons. Sometimes when I hobbled out to work a crossword puzzle in his shadow, I would find Pappy Jed kneeling with his head against the tree trunk crying, a big man with tears as full as raindrops. On these occasions I knew he was thinking about my mother. I would sneak off quietly, as best I could on squeaky crutches, and wait behind the smokehouse until he was right side up on his bench and ready for company.