Synopses & Reviews
"I had always imagined that my life story...would have a great first line: something like Nabokov's 'Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins;' or if I could not do lyric, then something sweeping like Tolstoy's 'All happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.'...When it comes to openers, though, the best in my view has to be the first line of Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier
: 'This is the saddest story I have ever heard.'"
So begins the remarkable tale of Firmin the rat. Born in a bookstore in a blighted 1960's Boston neighborhood, Firmin miraculously learns how to read by digesting his nest of books. Alienated from his family and unable to communicate with the humans he loves, Firmin quickly realizes that a literate rat is a lonely rat.
Following a harrowing misunderstanding with his hero, the bookseller, Firmin begins to risk the dangers of Scollay Square, finding solace in the Lovelies of the burlesque cinema. Finally adopted by a down-on-his-luck science fiction writer, the tide begins to turn, but soon they both face homelessness when the wrecking ball of urban renewal arrives.
In a series of misadventures, Firmin is ultimately led deep into his own imaginative soul-a place where Ginger Rogers can hold him tight and tattered books, storied neighborhoods, and down-and-out rats can find people who adore them.
"Savage's sentimental debut concerns the coming-of-age of a well-read rat in 1960s Boston. In the basement of Pembroke Books, a bookstore on Scollay Square, Firmin is the runt of the litter born to Mama Flo, who makes confetti of Moby-Dick and Don Quixote for her offspring's cradle. Soon left to fend for himself, Firmin finds that books are his only friends, and he becomes a hopeless romantic, devouring Great Books sometimes literally. Aware from his frightful reflection that he is no Fred Astaire (his hero), he watches nebbishy bookstore owner Norman Shine from afar and imagines his love is returned until Norman tries to poison him. Thereafter he becomes the pet of a solitary sci-fi writer, Jerry Magoon, a smart slob and drinker who teaches Firmin about jazz, moviegoing and the writer's life. Alas, their world is threatened by extinction with the renovation of Scollay Square, which forces the closing of the bookstore and Firmin's beloved Rialto Theater. With this alternately whimsical and earnest paean to the joys of literature, Savage embodies writerly self-doubts and yearning in a precocious rat: 'I have had a hard time facing up to the blank stupidity of an ordinary, unstoried life.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This is a cleverly written memoir of the colorful lives and distinct shops of a Boston borough that was sadly replaced by lackluster government offices." Library Journal
"An amusing diversion for bibliophiles and Willard fans; in Savage's debut, a rat's life may be brutish and short, but not necessarily without style." Kirkus Reviews
"Blending philosophy and abundant literary references with originality, Savage crafts a small comic gem about the costs and rewards of literary illusions." Booklist
"Firmin, the debut novel by Sam Savage, gives us the funny and strangely touching story of this melancholic and intellectual rat and, in showing us the artist in the rat, makes us understand the rat in every artist." Minneapolis Star Tribune
Born in a bookstore in a blighted 1960s Boston neighborhood, Firmin learns to read by digesting his nest of shredded books. But he quickly learns that a literate rat is a lonely rat. Alienated from his family, he seeks the friendship of his hero, the bookseller and a down-on-his-luck science fiction writer who frequents the shop. Yet Firmin's inability to convey his thoughts to the humans he loves leads to a series of harrowing misadventures. Against a backdrop of urban destruction and burlesque cinema, Firmin is led deep into his own imaginative soul a place where Ginger Rogers can hold him tight and tattered books, storied neighborhoods, and down-and-out rats alike can find people who adore them.
A darkly comic rat's tale of exile, unrequited love, and the redemptive power of literature. Unforgettable!
About the Author
A native of South Carolina, Sam Savage now lives in Madison, Wisconsin. This is his first novel.