Thursday, April 15, 2010

Review: Fireworks Over Toccoa

Fireworks Over Toccoa
By Jeffrey Stepakoff
Publication date: March 30, 2010
My rating: ****1/2

My review:

Fireworks Over Toccoa is the story of Lily Davis Woodward, a young Georgia socialite and Jake Russo, the son of Italian immigrants and their passionate affair in the summer of 1945. Jake is in Toccoa, Georgia to create a fireworks display for the town's Fourth of July celebration in honor of the soldiers returning from the war. Lily's own husband is due to come home and the two will be reunited after three years apart. Lily married Paul Woodward just days before he left to fight in World War II and it is only now that she is realizing just how much she feels stifled by her life. Jake seems to understand her artistic bent and with him she feels free to be herself.

Lily is an unusual woman for her time. She has everything materially and her family is well respected in their town. Her future seems to be bright and secure but when you look below the surface you see the cracks. She is constantly reminded of her family's place in society even when she is running errands at the grocery store as people try to curry favor with her parents by being kind to her. She has been raised to play the same proper role that her mother Honey does, never allowing the messiness of life to show. Honey is the kind of woman who is very much into keeping up appearances. She doesn't sweat in the Georgia heat-she glistens and there is never a hair out of place. Lily's dad can be more down to earth but he wields a lot of influence. Lily's parents love her but you can't help but feel that she was pressured into marrying Paul, who is socially acceptable. Lily is her own person though and we begin to see it even before she meets Jake. In one scene she sees an African American Army sergeant who cannot get a drink of water from the "coloreds only" water fountain because it is broken and he isn't allowed to drink from the water fountain for "whites". While the others in her town don't seem to notice the man at all, Lily goes and buys him a soda to drink. This small act of kindness and defiance of society norms gives the reader insight into Lily's character.

Jake is a passionate young man full of dreams and ideas even while he battles painful memories of war or seeing his father thrown into an internment camp for being "the enemy". Jake may be Lily's opposite socially but he has joie de vivre that she desperately needs. Together they could be something as brilliant as his fireworks. I really liked both Jake and Lily and I found myself hoping that they would somehow have a happy ending even at the expense of Lily's hasty marriage to Paul.

Fireworks Over Toccoa is a beautifully written novel with moving characters. It has been compared to the works of Nicholas Sparks and I would have to agree that it did remind me a little bit of a Nicholas Sparks novel-in a good way. I could easily see it being made into a film, which isn't a surprise considering that Jeffrey Stepakoff is an established screenwriter. This is his first novel and I hope to see more excellent stories from him in the future. Fans of Southern fiction and those who enjoy moving love stories should not miss this!

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


  1. Great review!! I read this one a few weeks ago :)

  2. I've never heard of this one, it sounds good. Nice review!

  3. I read this one too, but I just couldn't get into Lily's character, she felt like a spoiled brat to me. To each his own though, right? Very well written review.

    Kate the Book Buff

  4. I enjoyed this book when I read it last month. It was beautiful! Good review. You expressed the points well!


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