Every now and then you come across a book in which, despite its possible flaws, you can find nothing but beauty. Chasing Fireflies is one such book. First, before getting into anything else, I want to talk about metaphor. If an extended metaphor is done well, deep within you it’s thoroughly understood without the author having to completely spell it out for you. Within Chasing Fireflies we find several beautiful and complex metaphors that are woven within the story to make an intricate tapestry. Firstly, the title. The title winds up being both a literal and a metaphorical interpretation. We see our characters bonding and healing old wounds by participating in this age old southern tradition. It’s expertly crafted, and it’s not until the very end that the reader understands the vital importance of the chase, the discovery, and the capturing of enlightenment. We see how the firefly blinks, intermittently pulling you closer, illuminating for a brief moment before succumbing to darkness again. Briefly you fear that you’re again lost in darkness, losing hope, only to see once again the glow of the thing that eludes you. It’s that hope that keeps you chasing when all else seems swallowed by darkness. Martin didn’t have to tell me this, but I knew it. I felt it.
Now here’s where I’ll talk about one way in which this book is an odd choice for me. Martin is often considered as a Christian fiction writer. However, I wouldn’t classify this book as Christian fiction though others may disagree. Sure, it’s fairly sentimental, has some various mentions of the Bible and faith, and there’s no overtly inappropriate content that would make a good protestant woman fetch her smelling salts. But it’s not preachy or over the top. Now I would vehemently disagree with Unc that the firefly’s butt blinks because of God’s divine intervention. I’m on team science. But I also appreciate that there are people in this world who hold to a faith that propels them. They need that. They crave it. Honestly, I think we all have those things, but they take completely different forms. Unc is one of the most complex, quirky, and lovable characters I’ve ever read, despite the fact that I don’t share his ideas about the universe and all its creations. But I admire his integrity and his ability to think rationally and honorably in the face of severe obstacle. I also absolutely love his little words of wisdom, or “Willyisms.” One way Unc and I do agree is in seeing the beauty of the natural world as a reflection of our character. Unc treasures the land that his father treasured, and he detests seeing the way his brother rolls over it for the sake of greed without returning what he took. I wish more self-professed Christians were like Unc instead of like Jack. We wouldn’t be where we are today.
Back to metaphor, I’m not a chess player, but I know enough about it to understand that sometimes you can’t just play the aggressive game. You have to play the long game. You have to give a little and take a bit of a beating, but you can’t lose sight of the end. That one final move that will decide the whole thing. Now there will probably be people standing over your shoulder wondering what the hell you’re doing. They’ll think you’re useless. They’ll think you’re stupid. They’ll jump ship and root for the other guy. But you know what they don’t. And you’re saving it for the right moment. And when you play that final move, everything will change. At the same time, you’ll lose a lot to get there. Is it worth it? How much of the army on your board will be left after that final move? How will that have changed you?
I’m going to avoid saying much more about this book, because it’s one that should be experienced. I was caught off guard by some details, and I love that, because I hate it when I can see the end coming even if it makes me feel good that I figured it out. Ultimately this is a book about identity, family, and finding your voice. It’s ultimately a bit unbelievable, but that’s ok.
Sometimes it’s ok for something to just feel right.