Chasing Fireflies: A Novel of Discovery [NOOK Book]


They have one summer to find what was lost long ago.

"Never settle for less than the truth," she told him. But when you don't even know your real name, the truth gets a little complicated. It can nestle so close to home it's hard to see. It can even flourish inside a lie. And as Chase Walker discovered, learning the truth about who you are can be as elusive—and as magical—as chasing fireflies on a summer night.

A haunting story about fishing, ...
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Chasing Fireflies: A Novel of Discovery

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They have one summer to find what was lost long ago.

"Never settle for less than the truth," she told him. But when you don't even know your real name, the truth gets a little complicated. It can nestle so close to home it's hard to see. It can even flourish inside a lie. And as Chase Walker discovered, learning the truth about who you are can be as elusive—and as magical—as chasing fireflies on a summer night.

A haunting story about fishing, baseball, home cooking, and other matters of life and death.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In his fifth novel, Martin (Maggie; When Crickets Cry) offers the same brand of sentimental Southern storytelling that has endeared him to readers. Just before T-boning her Impala into a train, a woman on a suicide run kicks her horrifically abused little boy, known only as Snoot—or to the state, John Doe 117—out of the car. Chase Walker, a reporter for the Brunswick Daily in Glen County, Ga., is assigned to follow up on the boy, whose abandonment mirrors Chase's own haunted past. The little boy, apparently mute, is an artistic prodigy who excels at chess and quickly works his way into Chase's heart. Martin's strength is in his memorable characters, especially Uncle Willie, whose fresh quips ("as out of place in South Georgia as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs"), penchant for Krispy Kreme doughnuts and mysterious past keep readers engrossed. Here, as in some of his other novels, Martin can't resist piling on unnecessary tragedies; his characters and their issues are enough to keep the pages turning. Although the plot needs fine-tuning, Martin's prose is lovely, and the flashback parallel stories of a grown man abandoned as a child and the neglected boy will ensure readers keep the Kleenex handy. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781418537265
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/29/2007
  • Sold by: THOMAS NELSON
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 77,533
  • File size: 704 KB

Meet the Author

Charles Martin
Charles Martin's novels have been acclaimed by reviewers and readers alike. He lives a stone’s throw from the St. John’s River in Jacksonville, Florida, with his wife and their 3 boys.
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Read an Excerpt

Chasing Fireflies

A Novel of Discovery

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2007 Charles Martin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-5955-4056-0

Chapter One

I stepped out into the sunlight humming a Pat Green tune, slipped on my sunglasses, and stared out over the courthouse steps. After three days of incarceration, not much had changed. Brunswick, Georgia, was like that. Discarded bubblegum, flat as half-dollars, dotted the steps like splattered ink. Lazy, blimpish pigeons strutted the sidewalk begging for bread scraps or the sprinkles off somebody's double-shot mocha latte. In the alley across the street, an entire herd of stray cats crept toward the wharf just four blocks down. The sound of seagulls told them the shrimp boats had returned. And on the steps next to me, two officers lifted a tattooed man, whose feet and hands were shackled and cuffed, up the steps and, undoubtedly, into Judge Thaxton's courtroom. Based on the mixture of saliva and epithets coming out of his mouth, he wasn't too crazy about going. No worries. Given my experience with Her Honor, his stay in her courtroom wouldn't be long.

His next short-term home would be a holding cell downstairs. These were cold, dark, windowless, and little more than petri dishes for mold and fungi. I know this because I've been in them on more than one occasion. The first timeI stayed here as a guest, I scratched Chase was here into the concrete block wall. This time I followed it up with Twice. Makes me laugh to think about it. Sort of following in Unc's footsteps.

Two blocks down, rising above the rest of town like the Ferris wheel at a county fair, stood the bell tower above the Zuta Bank and Trust. Most churches-turned-banks have that. At the turn of the century, its Russian Orthodox congregation had dwindled down to nothing, leaving the priest to roam the basement like the Phantom in his catacomb.

And while the Silver Meteor was the most famous rail ever to run these woods, she couldn't hold a candle to the one that ran underground.

When the first Russian immigrants appeared in the late 1800s, they built on an existing footprint. A hundred years earlier, the local inhabitants had built their own meetinghouse. The building served several purposes: town hall, church, and shelter. Unique to the structure was a basement. Because much of South Georgia rests so close to the water table, they dug the basement into a hill, then lined the walls and floors with several feet of coquina. This did not mean it stayed dry, but it was dry enough. Through two trapdoors and one hidden stairwell, the townsfolk survived multiple Indian attacks and two Spanish burnings of the building above. Few today know about the basement. Maybe just the four of us. Sure, folks know it was there at one time, but most think it was filled in when the ZB&T was built. Scratchings on the walls show the names of slaves who knelt in the dark, listened, and prayed while dogs sniffed above.

Eventually the Phantom vacated as well, leaving the building empty for nearly a decade. Hating to see it go to waste and needing a place from which to loan money, a local businessman bought the building, ripped out half the pews, one confessional, and most of the altar, and installed counters and a vault. Local sentiment swayed in his favor. The depression was still fresh on people's minds, and in that mind-set you couldn't let a perfectly good building go to waste. If you built the church, don't take it personally. Just because folks around here don't like your brand of God doesn't mean they don't like your brand of architecture. Count your blessings. Most in Glynn County echoed this sentiment. Some of the locals proudly traced their roots to the Founding Fathers-the English prisoners sent from England to inhabit the colony back before the Revolution. Such sentiment was not unique; folks in Australia did the same. In the sticks of Brunswick, Georgia, rebellion was as hardwired into the DNA of the residents as was the love of Georgia Bulldog football.

While South Georgia found itself squarely embedded in the Bible Belt, and most churches were filled on Sundays, only Saturdays were sacred. Saturday afternoons from September to December, folks huddled around the altar of an AM station and worshipped the red and black of the Bulldogs. And while local pastors were much admired and respected, none carried the weight of the radio voice of the Bulldogs, Larry Munson. If Larry said anything at all, it was gospel. Throughout the decades, much has been written about Notre Dame and Touchdown Jesus, The Crimson Tide and Bear Bryant, and Penn State and Paterno, but from the salt marsh to the mountains, it was a certifiable fact that God himself was a Georgia Bulldog. How else did Larry Munson break his chair?

November 8, 1980. A minute to go in the fourth quarter. The Gators led the Bulldogs by a point. The Bulldogs had the ball, but ninety-three yards stood between them, the goal line, and their shot at the national title. On the second play of the game, Herschel Walker had bounced off a tackle and scorched seventy-two yards for six points and the beginnings of immortality. Now he stood on the field, having rushed for more than two hundred yards, either a target or a decoy. Buck Belue of Valdosta, Georgia, took the snap, pump faked-causing Florida Gator Tony Lilly to stumble-and dumped the ball down the left sideline to Lindsey Scott, who high-stepped ninety-three yards and joined Herschel atop Mt. Olympus. Amidst the mayhem in the press box, Larry Munson would break his folding chair, solidifying his place alongside the commentating gods and inside the heart of every man, woman, and child in the state of Georgia. Sports Illustrated later called it the "Play of the Decade," and many sportswriters agreed that Herschel Walker was the greatest athlete ever to play college football.

Folks in Georgia need no further argument. The State rests.

My office at the Brunswick Daily sat across the street, looking down on me. I could see the rolling slide show of my screen saver shining through my third-story window. My perch. As a reporter assigned to the court beat, I kept my finger on the court's pulse by watching these steps. The sign above my head read Glynn County Jail, but I didn't turn and look at it. Didn't need to.

After three days in jail, I was pretty sure that my editor had bitten his nails to the quick and was up there eyeing me from his perch, just seconds from walking out the double doors across the street. I looked east, toward the water and my boat. Home sounded like a good idea. I needed to get a shower, put on some deodorant, and breathe something other than dank cell stench. The paper could wait.

Uncle Willee sat in the driver's seat smiling at me from beneath his wide-brimmed palmetto leaf hat, called a "Gus." It's a cowboy hat for hot weather, a lightweight version of the hat made famous by Robert Duvall in Lonesome Dove. The brim was soiled and crown wrinkled, worn dirty by a farrier with a fishing addiction. It sagged a bit around the edges but curled up at the ends-a mirrored contrast to his face.

I stuffed my hands in my pockets and sniffed the salty air blowing in over St. Simons, across the marsh, and bringing with it the ripe smell of curdling salt and mud-a function of our geography. The Gulf Stream, some hundred and fifty miles due east, keeps constant pressure against the East Coast's most western edge-something akin to a hedge-causing the "Bermuda High." Thanks to it, the Golden Isles live under a constant sea breeze that keeps both the no-see-ums-invisible gnats with an attitude-and hurricanes at bay.

The coastal rivers of Georgia, like the Satilla, the Altamaha, and the Little Brunswick, flow out of the west Georgia mountains through the Buffalo Swamp and empty into the cordgrass of the marsh flats. Like a seine made of cheesecloth, the marsh filters the flow and sifts the sediment, creating a pluffy, soft mud.

Here in this pungent muck, native anaerobic bacteria decay bottom matter and release a gaseous bouquet that smells like rotten eggs. As the tide recedes, fiddler crabs, snails, worms, and other tiny inhabitants burrow into the pluff where they hope to escape being slow-cooked at a broiling 140 degrees. As the tide rises, the critters climb from their holes, where they-like beachcombers-bask and bathe.

During peak tourist season, visitors stroll the sidewalks, sniff the same air, and wrinkle their noses. "Something die?" Technically, yes, the marsh is always dying. But then the tide returns, trades old for new, and the canvas gives birth again.

To us-those who seek the solace of the marsh-it is a stage where God paints-yellow in the morning, green toward noon, brownish in the afternoon, and blood red toward evening. It is the sentinel that stands guard at the ocean's edge, protecting the sea from the runoff that would kill it. It is a selfless and sacrificial place. And when I close my eyes, it is also the smell of home.

When I graduated college, I came back to Brunswick, bought an acre along the Altamaha and a sailboat named Gone Fiction at the annual police auction. She was a thirty-six-foot Hunter and had been confiscated during an offshore drug raid. The SWAT guys at the auction said they'd busted some Florida writer running drugs along the coast. When his books didn't sell, he traded his pen for a habit and joined the dark side. I didn't know a thing about sailing, but she looked cozy-had a bed, toilet, shower, small kitchen, and a bow big enough for a folding chair. Not to mention a rope railing where I could prop up my feet. I sized her up, imagined myself perched on her nose watching the tide roll in and out, and raised my hand. Sold! I got her in the water, motored her upriver to my acre of land, and dropped anchor in water deep enough not to ground her when the tide ran out. She sits about eighty yards offshore, which means when I tell people I live on the water, I'm not kidding.

Unc sat in a black, four-door 1970-something Cadillac hearse pulling a double-axle trailer he'd bought at a U-Haul auction. As a farrier, he uses the trailer as his workshop and his home away from home. He bought the hearse, which he calls Sally, more than a decade ago when a nearby funeral home needed an upgrade. It's the joke he plays on the world, and given the life he's lived, a joke is helpful.

A single fishing pole stuck out the back, the line tip dangling with a redheaded jig. Unc tipped his hat back, raised his eyebrows above his polarized Costa Del Mars, and smiled a guilty grin. He lifted his seat belt buckle, popped the top on a Yoo-hoo, stuffed an entire MoonPie into his mouth, and then sucked down the Yoo-hoo like it was the last on earth. I shook my head. Sometimes I wonder how a man like that raised a kid like me. Then I remember.

He dropped his glasses down on his chest. "You look like the dog's been keeping you under the porch."

Maybe I did look a bit disheveled.

I walked up to the car and began pulling on the ID tag they'd put on my wrist three days ago. It's like one of those plastic bands they give you when you check into the hospital. When they booked me, I told them, "I don't really need this. I already know my name." Problem is-that's not entirely true.

After about ten seconds, I decided that you'd have to bench-press five hundred pounds to break it. I pulled harder. It might as well have been a pair of handcuffs.

Unc shook his head. "Boy, you couldn't pour pee out of a boot with instructions on the heel."

Uncle Willee speaks his own language made up of one-liners that make sense mostly to him. Aunt Lorna and I just call them "Willee-isms," and between the two of us we can usually figure out what he's trying to say.

I stuck my hand through the window and said, "May I?"

He reached into his back pocket and handed me his Barlow pocket-knife. "Always drink upstream from the herd."

Another thing about Willee-isms-they often use just a few words to say what would require ordinary people about a hundred. In this short exchange, he was bringing notice to the fact that he came prepared with his Barlow-as always-while I was without mine. Hence, naked and dependant on another, i.e., Uncle Willee, who to my knowledge had never followed the herd. That meant he thought ahead, while I had not. But why say all that when you can talk about some herd drinking upstream from some other herd somewhere in some ethereal pasture?

He looked through the windshield and picked at a front tooth with his toothpick. "... like being caught with your shorts down."

I shook my head, opened the smaller of the two blades, and cut off the wristband that told the jail my name.

He slipped the knife back into his pocket and whispered under his breath, "Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it."

I climbed into Sally and buckled my seat belt. "Well, aren't we just as full of wind as a corn-eating horse?"

"It ain't boasting if you done it."

"You're an embarrassment to civil society."

Unc dropped the gearshift into drive, turned up Wynonna Judd's rendition of "Free Bird," and said, "You don't know the half of it."

That, too, was true.

I was six years old, or so I'm told, when the state sent me to the home of Willee and Lorna McFarland. It would be my last stop. But after twenty-two years of living with Uncle Willee, I knew only half his story. It was the other half I'd spent most of my life trying to figure out.

Just as we were about to merge into traffic, he pulled the stick back up into neutral and pulled his glasses down to the tip of his nose. "Oh ... Tommye's home."

Willie Nelson sings a song about an angel that skirts too close to Earth, clips a wing, and ends up sick and grounded. He mends her wing and patches her up only to watch her catch an updraft and exit the stratosphere. As the words Tommye's home echoed between my ears like a bell clapper in a clock tower, I remembered that tune.

Unc grabbed a fresh toothpick that'd been stuffed into the foam above the visor and laid it on his tongue, all the while studying my eyes.

I tried to mask them and nodded. "When?"

He pushed his glasses back up and adjusted his side mirror. "Few days ago."

"Where's she staying?"

He accelerated and waved at a Sea Island soccer mom driving a black Suburban, who let him merge. "With us."

After years of unanswered phone calls, "return to sender" letters, one unannounced visit, rampant rumors, and finally the ugly and public truth, Tommye had flown home.

Thirty minutes later we turned off Highway 99 and onto the dirt road that led to home. It was lined with some fifty-four pecan trees that Unc's daddy-Tillman Ellsworth McFarland-had planted almost fifty years ago. He dropped me at the barn and looked up at the loft. "I'll be up in a bit. Give you two some time."

I climbed the steps, filled my lungs, and pushed open the door. The loft was my home away from home. I'd lived up here throughout high school, during college, and for a while after. Even now, when I don't feel like driving back to the boat, I sleep here.

The window unit was set on "high," and condensation ran down the inside of the windows. Tommye stood near the refrigerator, reaching for a glass off the top shelf. She wore sweats that looked two sizes too big and a cutoff shirt exposing a sunrise tattoo on the small of her back. Her brunette hair was blonde, stringy, and tired looking. She heard the click of the door and turned slowly. Her face was thinner, her eyebrows sculpted, and the green emeralds I'd known in high school were dim, bloodshot, and burning low.

She smiled, tilted her head, and ... have you ever seen video of melting glaciers where huge chunks, the size of skyscrapers, break off and crash into the sea? If hearts can do that, then when her hair slid from behind her ear and down over her eyes, and the right side of her lip turned up, I heard my heart crack down the middle.

I nodded toward the cabinet. "What're you looking for?"

She never took her eyes off me. "Anonymity."

Barefoot on the worn carpet, fresh red polish on her toes, she stepped across the single-room apartment. She stopped, her face inches from mine, reached for my hands, and pulled gently. A hug that said, "Meet me in the middle." Her arms and back were strong, and her tomboy's chest felt unnatural and Hollywood-firm. We stood there several minutes, her holding me. But as the minutes passed and the facade faded, she leaned on me, and the hug passed from her holding me to me holding her.


Excerpted from Chasing Fireflies by CHARLES MARTIN Copyright © 2007 by Charles Martin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 44 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 44 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2008

    What a wonderful gift

    My husband surprised me with this book as a gift when returning home from a trip away for a few days. He said, 'it looks like something you will like'. I absolutely loved this book. Charles Martin was a new author to me, but he fast became one of my absolute favorites. His book drew me in, and I couldn't put it down. After finishing this book I immediately went out, and bought every Charles Martin book I could find. To anyone reading this. . .get this book, you will enjoy every minute of it.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2011

    My first Charles Martin booK BUT DEFINATELY not my last!

    The best of men and the worst of men all in one book. Corrupt evil may prevail on the outside, but it can never tear down TRUE goodness that comes from a heart full of REAL God given peace. Charles Martins descriptions can sweep you away from the spot you are in, figuratively and literally, and set you down in a dusty little town full of mystery and secrets just waiting to be told. Hope/doubt, Forgiveness/revenge, Peace/longing are emotions we all struggle with. This book takes you through them all and helps you sort through them carefully and gently.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2012


    Another unforgetable story from Mr. Martin!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 25, 2011

    One of my new favorites!

    I feel in love with Charles Martin when reading When Crickets Cry. This man is one of the best writers I have read in a long time. The way he draws you and half way through you think you have figured it out and then goes another direction. LOVE IT! Also as a reader of many Christian authors I adore the way Charles use a simple but always present way of showing the struggles we face everyday. Chasing Fireflies is a book that will make you laugh, cry and scratch your head but it is one that is worth it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    The book was fantastic. The writer keeps your interest throughout the story. You do not want to put the book down.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 27, 2013

    I absolutely could not put this book down!  There truly are bad

    I absolutely could not put this book down!  There truly are bad and evil people in the world, but he balances that
     by showing us the good also.  Charles Martin has a wonderful way with words and seems to just 
    have stories waiting to burst forth from his mind and heart.   I've read most all of them but have been away for
    awhile, and found this one I hadn't yet read and am thankful I didn't miss it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2013

    A writer that moves your heart!

    Charles Martin puts words to deep emotions like few writers are able. At the same time, he craftily designs a story that demonstrates the beauty of love. I've read a lot of classic literature. Only one author of all that I have read moved my heart the way the Charles Martin can- Fedor Dostoevsky.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2013

    Soo touching

    I loved this book soooo much this is a must read with a surprising ending

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2013

    Best book

    This is one if my favorite books!!! I loved it!!!

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  • Posted September 6, 2012

    I've now officially read all of Charles Martin's books. This is

    I've now officially read all of Charles Martin's books. This is one of the best, and that's saying something. The characters are so real, I feel like I have a bunch of friends hanging out on my bookshelf, waiting for me to pick them up again. I will, someday. I promise.

    I particularly loved the relationship between Chase and Unc and the picture it paints of what the father-child relationship should look like, juxtaposed with that of Jack and Tommye--the ultimate "what not to do." This lends credence to the idea that, instead of always trying to discover "who" we are, we ought to spend more time considering "whose" we are. When we know who we belong to, the rest falls into place

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2012

    Lion claw

    It was hard finding you i see a rabbit les kilk it

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 23, 2012

    Another great book!

    Another great book!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer


    This is a wonderful book. Definitely a book that father's and son's should read.

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    Posted September 25, 2011

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    Posted February 7, 2011

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    Posted March 23, 2011

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    Posted December 9, 2008

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    Posted March 4, 2012

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