Editor’s review of “The Fires of Waterland” by Raymond Alexander Kukkee

5 Star Rating“poignant and compelling — don’t miss it”

Fires of WaterlandIn The Fires of Waterland, emerging author Raymond Alexander Kukkee has produced a powerful coming-of-age tale. His characters are vividly drawn, with utterly convincing dialogue.

The story of Fletcher Williams’ troubled but hope-filled childhood develops through a series of bittersweet flashbacks. We learn that “Fletch” is an orphan; but his hard-drinking father still lives. We meet his luckless mother, then lose her without warning. In between we find glimpses of Livvy Manlin, the love of the young boy’s life. Fletcher’s memories of the girl waver between silly and soulful, and our understanding of Livvy’s impact on him shimmers in these reflections.

Throughout the novel, time slides back and forth as we are immersed in Fletcher’s recollections and insights. Shifting from background to foreground in nearly every scene, we find the wise and lovable curmudgeon, Floyd McAllister. From the seat of his ramshackle wheelchair, Floyd guides Fletcher’s tortuous journey with pithy wisdom, a wink, and a wave of his black pipe.

There is plenty of Fire in Waterland — fire in the compelling way the author perfectly captures poignant scenes, and fire in the stunning losses suffered by the protagonist along the way. Through Fletcher’s eyes, we witness disturbing abuse and traumatic deaths with the limited comprehension of a boy who often seems younger than his years.

In the end, Kukkee brings us an engrossing story of loss and hope, of love and acceptance. He displays a dramatic flair for recalling the confusion of youth lived in peril. For readers who love the too-few novels produced by John Hart, this author is a delightful discovery. Kukkee combines the gritty immersion of Steinbeck with Dickens’ skeptical sympathy for childhood. Much more than a tale of teen angst, The Fires of Waterland is a multi-layered gem that will draw you in deeper page after page, until its striking conclusion. Don’t miss it.

Rating: 5 Stars * ©2012 Raymond Alexander Kukkee [includes adult language and situations]


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  1. Jim, upon reading such a fantastic review, what can one offer other than heartfelt and simple thank you? I seriously admire your in-depth analysis of The Fires of Waterland. I am so humbled by your generous and kind words. Much appreciated. ~R

    • Jim Bessey says

      And I’m equally humbled by the talent you display in this novel, Raymond.

      It’s a beautiful work. I started out reading because we are friends, and ended up reading because I couldn’t put it down!

  2. Jim, what a wonderful review. I am reading the book and am currently halfway through. I find myself rooting for Fletch (Fletcher) and wondering what other losses are to come…

    • Jim Bessey says

      So much to come yet, Christy…

      And not everything will work out the way we might hope it would. Twists and turns a-plenty!

  3. Great review, Jim. I like how you give a detailed review of Raymond’s book without giving the story away.

    Raymond… I’ve said it before… and I say it again. ‘The Fires of Waterland’ is nothing short of a bestseller. Congratulations.

    • Jim Bessey says

      Thanks very much, Mandy.

      Must admit, I’m rusty on reviews. I have a bunch of them in my portfolio, but they are all for bestselling authors using serial characters. You approach those differently than you would for stand-alone books. Once I had my review drafted, I stopped over to your site to see how you’d approached it, just to be safe.

      Raymond is a friend, so if I couldn’t offer an honest stellar review, I would not have done so publicly. In fact, Raymond’s book had me hooked by the end of the first chapter and I had trouble, literally, putting it down. When I finalized my review, I had to go back to re-read for some name spellings, and have since ended up reading the first ten or so chapters all over again! 🙂

      • Hahaha… that’s the best part about Ray’s book, Jim. You just can’t get enough of it, can you? Reminds me of the ‘Lays’ slogan. ‘No one can eat just one’. In this case, it’s more like… ‘No one can read just one page…’ LOL. Seriously though, even if we are partially biased, considering Ray’s our friend, the fact that the book kept us spellbound from beginning to end is sign that it is a bestseller. I know his next book is already a killer. After all, he’s already won ‘best first chapter’ for it.

        • Jim Bessey says

          (smacks forehead)

          How could I have forgotten that?? I could have identified Raymond as “…award-winning author…”! 🙂

  4. Thank you so much, for your faith in FOW –everyone–the super-positive feedback is incredibly encouraging. The non-revealing reviews are also much appreciated. Again, I thank you. “:)


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