“poignant and compelling — don’t miss it”
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]