Sunday, May 16, 2010

'Fireworks Over Toccoa' is Less Than Spectacular

Southern literature is my favorite genre, but even it can fail to entertain. Thus was the case in the highly lauded, but ultimately disappointing new novel Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff.

The caveat: Fans of Nicholas Sparks will love the novel. I don't happen to be a fan of Sparks. I am among the thousands who loved the movie version of The Notebook, but any attempts to read his books have resulted in much eye-rolling by me. Why? I'm not sure exactly. Overly dramatic. Full of cliche. Heavily focused on the emotion (love, grief, guilt, etc.) but without the character development I would like to see in a really good novel. More than that, the writing style is just not something I'm interested in. I guess the bottom line is just that it's not my cup of tea; however, it is for many, many people. And I believe Sparks's numerous fans will enjoy Fireworks Over Toccoa.

The novel is framed by a present-day tale which reverts through storytelling into a tale of long ago. (Sound familiar?) When engaged city girl Colleen goes home to visit her grandmother Lily in rural Georgia, she learns the story of her grandmother's first marriage. Lily was married during World War II, just days before her husband left to go overseas. During his three year absence, Lily becomes a different person than the girl she was at 17. As time nears for her husband's return, Lily is faced with decisions about her future and her family. Her father, a Coca Cola executive, and her mother are an integral part of this decision-making process, as they have shaped each step thus far of Lily's life. Thrown into the mix is Italian-American (and just-returned WWII veteran) Jake Russo, who has come to town to produce Toccoa's fireworks display for the 4th of July.

Some of Stepakoff's descriptions of the town of Toccoa and its surroundings are beautiful. But the characters fell flat, the plot was a worn conglomeration of love stories already written, and the setting (the small-town south) never popped as I would have liked to have seen it. For southern literature to be great, the setting has to almost become another character in a novel. Stepakoff's fictional debut fell below my expectations.

1 comment:

  1. It's so funny that you mentioned Nicholas Sparks because I just read this book two days ago and the whole time I was reading it I was thinking about how it had the overly-dramatic feeling of a Nicholas Sparks book. It seemed like the author was trying way too hard.



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