Chasing Fireflies ***** by Charles Martin
I’m joining Jain with my edible book review at Food for Thought, where pages from your book magically mix with the kitchen and your camera. Books, Food & Photos, my three favorite things all in one place!
I LOVED this book. It had all the elements that appeal to me: colorful characters, a vivid setting (coastal Georgia–Brunswick, to be specific), and a story with secrets to unfold. The main character, Chase Walker, is a reporter assigned a story on an abused and abandoned boy. The abandonment is something that he has in common with the boy known as “Snoot”, or the state refers to him, “John Doe #117”. Chase’s adopted parents, Willee and Lorna McFarland, his cousin Tommye, Uncle Willee’s brother, Jack, all figure prominently in this story.
To us–those who seek the solace of the marsh–it is a stage where God paints–yellow in the morning, green toward noon, brownish in the afternoon, and blood red toward evening. It is the sentinel that stands guard at the ocean’s edge, protecting from the runoff that would kill it. It is selfless and sacrificial place. And when I close my eyes, it is also the smell of home.
Uncle Willie is a simple man who has suffered his own tragedies. He explains his source of wisdom: “Sometimes good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.” He shares his life’s lessons with both Chase and Snoot, while discussing fireflies, orchids, fishing and food. His food tastes run towards Yoo-Hoo, Moonpies, Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Krystal Burgers.
Uncle Willee speaks his own language made up of one-liners that make sense mostly to him.
“they ate supper before they had grace” = moved in together, then got married
“Time to paint your butt white & run with the antelope” = do as you’re told
“You can put your boots in the oven, but that doesn’t make them biscuits” = you can say whatever you want about something, but that doesn’t change what it is
“All hat and no cattle” = big talk but can’t back it up
Lots of fishing and boating scenes that appeal to me :)
Men spend their lives asking Who am I? when the real question is Whose am I? I don’t think you can answer the first until you’ve settled the second. First horse, then cart. Identity does not grow out of action until it has taken root in belonging. The orchid speech taught me that.
‘Care for the roots, and the flower will bloom all on it’s own.’ Unc then took a slender but strong bamboo shoot, about four feet long and slid it into the dirt along the stem of the orchid. Then he loosely tied the stem to the shoot. ‘That’s to guide the stem. Otherwise it’ll bloom too much, and the weight of the blooms can break the stem. So let it bloom all it wants, but give it something to lean on.’
This passage, about cooking the fish right after catching it on the boat, and serving it with cheese grits, had me running to one of my favorite cookbooks that is all about the coast and seafood…
It’s full of beautiful photos and spectacular recipes. I got sidetracked on the way to the seafood and couldn’t tear myself away from the recipe below.
NO, I told myself, your book has nothing to do with a tomato tart! Chase is preparing fish on his boat. He’s cooking grits… stay on task… find a fish recipe.
Well … my inner-self rationalized, he did SLICE a tomato…
So I succumbed…
I did eventually find a cheese grits recipe.
I never got around to preparing any seafood. I just sighed and admired and got distracted by the beautiful photography and the promise of warmer weather. Here are some examples from this cookbook to tempt your pallette …
You take the bad with the good. Rise up through it. Live in the midst of it. It’s the bad that lets you know how good the good really is. Don’t let the bad leave you thinking there ain’t no good. There is, and lots of it too.
This is an exceptional story that about a man’s journey to find his identity and another man’s sacrifices for those he loves. Be sure to have some tissues handy…