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Name: Lauren         Location: Middle Tennessee, USA

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Fireworks Over Toccoa: Discussion Questions
If you would like to read my review of Fireworks Over Toccoa, click HERE.

***This post is part of a 5 Minutes for Books discussion group, and it will contain SPOILERS.***

In my review, I mentioned that I think this will be a popular book: it is easy to read, fast-paced, and includes a whirlwind romance. Unfortunately, I felt like I was watching a train wreck, and I spent much of the story disliking the two main characters. I'll try to explain my feelings in my answers.

Many of the characters in the novel deal with regret and/or loss. How did these themes affect the characters? How did it affect their decisions? With whom could you relate as they struggled through these emotions?

The one aspect of Lily's character that I appreciated was that she used her experiences to guide her granddaughter. Everyone makes mistakes and has regrets (I classify her relationship with Jake as a mistake although I don't know that Lily would), and I believe that we can make a difference in the lives of others by sharing what we have learned from our mistakes. I'm not really sure that any granddaughter would want to know some of the explicit details shared in this book, but Lily's willingness to share her life story was admirable.

Do you think duty is ever more important than love?

Love has several meanings in the English language. True love, the self-sacrificing love that puts others needs before our own, is intertwined with duty. Lily's duty to her husband was absolutely more important that the physical attraction she felt toward Jake. When you make the commitment to marry someone, you make the marriage work, even when something that seems better comes along.

How would you describe the love between Jake and Lily? Was it genuine? Born of fear or loneliness? Could it have survived the intricacies of "real life," or could it only have existed in the tiny pocket of time outside of reality that they had?

The part of the story that irritated me the most was the idea that Lily and Jake's "love" was so powerful and strong that they had no choice but to be together. Lily and Jake may have had a powerful physical attraction, they may have had similar feelings of loneliness, and they may have connected on some kind of artistic level, but they didn't know each other well enough to truly love each other, and they certainly had plenty of opportunities to do the right thing.

I kept talking to Lily in my head: go get in your car, don't sit down and eat with him, don't go back and ask him to go on a picnic. She was just looking for trouble, and like a mother, I wanted to straighten her out!

Jake was no better. Even though he didn't know Paul personally, they were fellow soldiers, and he had no problem stealing Paul's wife days before his return. Lily saw Jake as a wonderful man, but he was certainly not a man of integrity. If he truly loved Lily, he would have refused to participate in the destruction of her life.

Would their relationship have lasted? No relationship can be that intense all the time. They would have realized each others faults and weaknesses. You can't live in fireworks mode forever. It's possible they would have stayed together, but anytime a relationship begins by breaking up another relationship, I wonder whether the new relationship will be a permanent one.

What personal connection, if any, did you have with this novel?: the place (Toccoa, Georgia), the World War II setting, influential families in small towns, military deployment, the loss of a child or sibling, temptation in marriage?

Obviously, I had some issues with the characters and their actions. The one aspect of this book that I enjoyed immensely was the southern setting. Mr. Stepakoff did an excellent job bringing a small southern town to life. Ice cold Cokes are a part of life around here, Honey's character jumped right off the page (I could picture her so easily through the lives of southern women I have known), and I loved the southern conversations (we southern ladies do "glisten" you know).

Well, there you have some of my highly opinionated thoughts. To participate in this discussion, be sure to check out the other posts at 5 Minutes for Books!

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