Synopses & Reviews
Every so often that story comes along that reminds us of what it's like to experience love for the first time -- against the odds, when you least expect it, and with such passion that it completely changes you forever.
An unexpected discovery takes eighty-four-year-old Lily Davis Woodward to 1945, and the five days that forever changed her life. Married for only a week before her husband was sent to fight in WWII, Lily is anxious for his return, and the chance to begin their life together. In honor of the soldiers' homecoming, the small Georgia town of Toccoa plans a big celebration. And Jake Russo, a handsome Italian immigrant, also back from war, is responsible for the elaborate fireworks display the town commissioned. But after a chance encounter in a star-lit field, he steals Lily's heart and soul--and fulfills her in ways her socially-minded, upper-class family cannot. Now, torn by duty to society and her husband--and the poor, passionate man who might be her only true love--Lily must choose between a commitment she's already made and a love shes never known before.
Fireworks Over Toccoa takes us to a moment in time that will resonate with readers long after the books unforgettable conclusion. A devastating and poignant story, this debut novel will resonate with anyone who believes in love.
“An impressive debut.”—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“A super emotionally charged love story.”—RT Book Reviews
“Read it in the tub.”—Redbook“A luminous love story that readers wont soon forget, Fireworks Over Toccoa transports you to another time and place. It is at once heartbreaking and triumphant—an affirmation of love in all its forms.”--NYTimes bestselling author, Emily Giffin
“Fireworks Over Toccoa pinches the heart, telling a poignant tale of love and loss, of making choices and letting go. Lily and Jake's passion shimmers from the pages, enveloping the reader in their private kudzu-covered world. With carefully-crafted characters, a lush and very real setting, this is a not-to-be missed book. Move over Nicholas Sparks!”--Karen White, award-winning author of The House on Tradd Street
“Fireworks Over Toccoa literally explodes with life. Its insights about place and love versus duty are as sharp as an eagles eye. I absolutely loved every character and hated for their story to end. Kaboom! A brilliant first effort from Jeffrey Stepakoff! Congratulations!”--Dorothea Benton Frank, NY Times bestselling author of Return to Sullivans Island
"Fireworks Over Toccoa is the poignant recollection of a young woman's coming of age and finding love, set against the vivid tableau of small town America during the Second World War, Stepakoff skillfully crafts a remarkable tale of fate and chance, choice and consequences, rewarding readers with a mesmerizing experience."--Pam Jenoff, International bestselling author of The Kommandant's Girl and Almost Home
“Fireworks Over Toccoa is a terrific story--moving, whimsical and original, a real page-turner destined for the big screen.”—Joanne Harris, International Bestselling author of Chocolat
“An unexpected love affair of Lily Davis, a WW II bride, is brilliantly portrayed by Jeffrey Stepakoff. Filled with suspense and surprise, I couldn't put it down. As dazzling as the fireworks which brought this war-time couple together, their passionate love affair is spellbinding. I was mesmerized to the last page!”--Marjorie Hart, National Bestselling author of Summer at Tiffany
About the Author
JEFFREY STEPAKOFF has been writing professionally since receiving his MFA in Playwriting from Carnegie Mellon in 1988. His credits include the Emmy-winning The Wonder Years, Sisters, Major Dad, Disney's Tarzan, and Dawson's Creek (as co-executive producer). This is his debut novel. He lives with his family north of Atlanta, Georgia.
Reading Group Guide
1. At eighty-two, Lily lived entirely alone in her big Victorian house. More than lonely, Lily often felt “an exquisite bittersweetness.” What do you think the author means by this?
2. When Lily sees the fireworks for the first time, it moves her, stirring deep-seated emotions. Though it was gone from sight, it remained engraved in her memory. Were you surprised that Lily was so affected by these fireworks? Have you ever been emotionally effected by an art form in this kind of way?
3. What was your response to Lilys decision to offer a thirsty African-American soldier a rare ice cold Coca-Cola in the middle of busy downtown 1945 Toccoa, Georgia? Do you think she should have been more direct in her action to help him, or stayed out of it entirely?
4. Married at seventeen only two weeks before her husband left for war, Lily meets and falls for Jake after her husband has been gone for three and a half years. Do you think it was wrong for Lily to accept Jakes invitation to dinner in the field? What was your response to her feelings for Jake and decision to begin an affair with him?
5. After Jake saw Lorena step on a landmine in Italy, he believes that events in life are arbitrary, that “life and death… its a matter of a breath, a heartbeat… a single footstep.” Do you believe that things happen due to “the simple timing of things,” as Jake does? Or do you, like Lily, believe that things happen for a reason?
6. Honey speaks the name of her son, Jonathan, only once in the story after he is killed in the war. Do you think the way she deals with his death is understandable? Do you think its healthy? What effect do you think it has on Lily?
7. Lily was surprised to learn that Mark - who once “drew her in charcoal while she lay drying in the sun in her underwear” - left Toccoa mainly to get away from her? What did you think about Lilys revelation that Mark felt this way about her? Do you think Lily has changed significantly since her days as a Toccoa teenager?
8. Despite his fathers words of wisdom, that “war is a dark fever, love its tonic” and despite his promise to his father to always leave his “heart open,” Jake is unable to shake from his soul what he saw when he liberated Dachau: “In tattered wool pajamas, faded stripes, they peered out at him. Eyes in black sockets, in sunken bobbling skulls, reflecting the unimaginable unspeakable horrors of the boneyards and furnaces behind them.” Do you think a person can ever fully recover after seeing what Jake saw?
9. Lilys father Walter is very clear with her about what he expects her to do when he speaks to her the morning after she has been out all night with Jake. What was your response to how Walter handled this situation? In his place, in what ways would you have reacted similarly or differently?
10. Do you think duty is ever more important than love?
11. Were you surprised by what happened to Paul on his way home? How do you think this event resonates with the theme of arbitrary occurrences vs. destiny?
12. What do you think about Lily not going to Jake before leaving on the train for Washington? What would you have done?