Firefly Cloak

( 9 )


Firefly Cloak is the powerfully vivid coming-of-age story of Tessa Lee, who, after being abandoned by her mother, sets off on a risky journey to discover what she has lost.

When eight-year-old Tessa Lee and her brother, Travis, are abandoned in a campground by their desperate mother and her boyfriend of the moment, they are left with only two things: a phone number written in Magic Marker on Travis’s back and their mother’s favorite housecoat, which she leaves wrapped around her...

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Firefly Cloak

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Firefly Cloak is the powerfully vivid coming-of-age story of Tessa Lee, who, after being abandoned by her mother, sets off on a risky journey to discover what she has lost.

When eight-year-old Tessa Lee and her brother, Travis, are abandoned in a campground by their desperate mother and her boyfriend of the moment, they are left with only two things: a phone number written in Magic Marker on Travis’s back and their mother’s favorite housecoat, which she leaves wrapped around her sleeping children. This housecoat, painted with tiny fireflies, becomes totemic for Tessa Lee, providing a connection to her past and to the beautiful mother she lost.

Seven years later, when word arrives that her mother has been spotted working at a tourist trap on a seaside boardwalk not far from where Tessa Lee lives, she sets off on a dangerous journey to try to recover what has been taken from her.

Steeped in the rich Southern atmosphere for which Sheri Reynolds has long been hailed, Firefly Cloak is a vivid coming-of-age novel of family, loss, and redemption.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lamia is fast becoming a treasure to the audiobook world-her reading of The Secret Life of Bees earned her an Audie nomination. Lamia's performance of Reynolds's novel is a thing of beauty, pitch perfect and dead on. The story of 14-year-old Tessa Lee, who, at seven, was abandoned along with her little brother, Travis, is elevated beyond Reynolds's (The Rapture of Cannan) already poetic text by Lamia's exquisite and skillful interpretation. The pain and anger of abandonment mixed with the ache of yearning to see her ne'er-do-well mother again is made palpable by Lamia's uncanny empathy toward her characters. Lil, Tessa Lee's grandmother and caretaker, tries to hold on to and protect her growing and hurting granddaughter. Though all the characters shine, Lamia's depiction of Tessa Lee is inspired. This is fine acting, not just reading. As one hears Tessa Lee breathing and smiling along with her thoughts, it makes the listener smile, too. Simultaneous release with the Shaye Areheart Books hardcover (Reviews, Feb. 13). (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
(See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/05) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Fifteen-year-old Tessa Lee is on a mission. She and her younger brother have grown up with their grandparents since their mother, Sheila, deserted them seven years earlier. But Tessa Lee is convinced that there is a good reason that her mother had to leave, and that all will work out when they meet again. So when a relative says that he has seen Sheila working at a seaside wax museum a couple of hours away, the teen sets off on a journey to reclaim her mother. The past seven years have turned Sheila into a broken, addicted woman, though, and Tessa Lee is forced to let go of the image she has held onto through her childhood. As the two struggle to come to terms with their new relationship, Tessa Lee must also work through the responsibility that she feels for her brother's recent death. Ever present in the background is Sheila's mother, Lil, who fears making the same mistakes with her granddaughter that she did with her daughter. Reynolds is in top form with these beautifully drawn, flawed characters. Fans of her previous novels will be drawn to her subtle, Southern lyricism, and teens will appreciate her perceptiveness in exploring damaged mother-daughter relationships.-Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The New York Times
Ms. Reynolds’s poetic gifts are uncommonly powerful.
From the Publisher

“Ms. Reynolds’s poetic gifts are uncommonly powerful.” —The New York Times

“Reynolds . . . is a gifted writer with a deceptively simple style and a keen ear for dialogue.” —The Boston Globe

“The newest and most exciting voice to emerge in contemporary Southern fiction.” —The San Francisco Bay Guardian

“Reynolds is in top form with these beautifully drawn, flawed characters.” —School Library Journal

“Simple prose rich with subtext, convincing dialogue, and a fascinating protagonist combine to produce a heartstring-plucker that’s explicit, tender, sad, and hopeful.” —Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781630263362
  • Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 10/2/2012
  • Pages: 300
  • Sales rank: 1,373,963
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Sheri Reynolds is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of five novels, including The Rapture of Canaan. She lives in Virginia and teaches at Old Dominion University, where she is the Ruth and Perry Morgan Chair of Southern Literature.
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Read an Excerpt

The night before she lost her momma, Tessa Lee camped out in a two-roomed tent with her momma, her little brother Travis, and a crooked-nosed man named Goose. Goose had picked them up that morning at a grocery store in South Hibiscus and loaded their bags into the back of his pickup while her momma gave Tessa Lee a shove into the cab. When Travis was settled beside her, and when her momma had rooted in and slammed the door, Goose said, “Let's skedaddle,” and they rattled through the parking lot, waving goodbye to the old men who sat out front on benches and waited for the ice-cream truck. It was the first time Tessa Lee had ever heard that word, “skedaddle,” and she sang it over and over to a tune she made up herself. She sang it to Travis and grabbed at his pudding-belly and made him laugh until her momma told her to quit. “She ain’t bothering me,” Goose said. But Tessa Lee shut up anyway.

She couldn’t stop singing it in her head, though. As they bumped their way out of town, Tessa Lee studied the rear-view mirror and the dusty ghosts poofing up behind them. “Skedaddle, skedaddle,” she mouthed to the ghosts.

They’d left behind her bicycle and her Weebles, her Spirograph and her books. Her momma had said she wouldn't need toys while she was on vacation, but as they drove along hot roads that faded into wavy black seas, it seemed strange to Tessa Lee that she’d be going on vacation with a man she'd never met before. He was friendly enough, and let her steer for a long time in Alabama, but while Travis was steering, she turned around and saw that the wind had blown over a bag of her clothes. Her winter coat had spilled out, and the furry hood shivered like a kitten against the tail-gate.

Tessa Lee shivered too, in spite of the thick heat, and said to her momma, “Must be going on vacation in the North Pole if I'm gonna need my fur coat when I get there,” and Tessa Lee's momma shook her head and lit another smoke.

“Smart girl,” Goose said.

“If she’s smart, she'll quit sassing,” her momma replied. But Tessa Lee could tell she wasn’t mad. Just worried. She could see worry in the way her momma tapped that cigarette at the edge of the window sill, trying to keep the ashes neat and short and manageable. Not a bit like laid-back Goose who let his ashes grow long and fade to white, then drop down warm onto his hairy belly.

Goose listened to country and sang with all the yodelers and told stories about going on alligator hunts when he was a boy. After a while, Travis fell asleep, and when they stopped for gas somewhere in Tennessee, Tessa Lee’s momma was left holding him while she went in the store to help Goose tote out the Yoo-hoos. When the man behind the counter said, “Your little girl's gonna be a heartbreaker,” Goose said, “Already is,” and winked at Tessa Lee, and she trotted out proud with the drinks and decided it wouldn't be so bad to have a daddy named after a bird.

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Reading Group Guide

1. Sheri Reynolds’s characters are vibrant and so fully realized that they have a way of taking up residence in your heart. Who is your favorite, and why?

2. Hully Sanders’s Mobile City is clearly in the South, and on the coast, but it could truly be in any number of states. Why do you think the specific location is never mentioned? Do you think this was a deliberate choice the author made?

3. Tessa Lee is part adult and part child, with one foot in imaginary lands and the other in a life of trauma. Do you think, despite this, she will flourish in life?

4. Why do you believe Tessa Lee latched on so strongly to the cloak–and to fireflies–as a talisman and an obsession? What do fireflies have in common with Sheila and Tessa Lee?

5. The novel interweaves many full and lovely themes. Which ones–motherhood, magic, loss, redemption, symmetry/geometry, and flight, to name a few–resonated most with you personally, and why?

6. As readers, we never actually meet Lewis/Pop-Pop or Travis; we only see them through other characters’ memories. Were they any less real to you because of this?

7. Sheila’s killing of the baby birds is a dramatic, tense, almost unbearable scene. Did you feel, while reading it, that Sheila was doing to the baby birds what she couldn’t bring herself to do to her children? In her mind, was Sheila murdering them or freeing them?

8. Was Sheila’s stay at the house with seventeen locks real or a hallucination? Was the old man an actual person or a metaphor?

9. Was the incident at the Cock-a-doodle-doo, when Lil slapped the black men at the bar, shocking to you? Did you feel it was out of character, or particularly revealing?

10. “All [Lil’d] ever wanted was to give Sheila the life she hadn’t had herself. Mostly she’d wanted to keep her safe, pass along strong values, not let her be mistreated or experience adult things too soon” (page 172). Lil gave Sheila and Tessa Lee very similar upbringings. Had Lil not softened and grown herself, would Tessa Lee have headed down the same destructive path as her mother? Why or why not?

11. Rash is an unexpectedly complex character. Do you think he pitied Tessa Lee? Did he see himself in her? Did he admire her? Do you think his life was better for having met and helped her?

12. Why do you think Tessa Lee got her nipple pierced? Were you shocked that she went through with it? What do you think it revealed about her innermost strengths and weaknesses?

13. Do you believe Sheila, Lil and/or Tessa Lee achieved redemption in the novel’s final pages? Why or why not? Who do you believe was most in need of it?

14. Will Sheila stay with Tessa Lee and Lil? Or is the better question: Will Tessa Lee stay with Sheila and Lil?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2012

    Firefly a good read

    I did like this book, not as much as her earler works, but I found it light even considering the dark topics, and that is something in itself.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2006


    I am listening to the audio version of 'Firefly Cloak.' Maybe I'm just offended by the exaggeration of the Southern drawl --- it is so over the top that it grates on my nerves. The reader annoys me so much, I can't tell if that's what's turning me off to the book, or what?

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    An insightful family drama

    Seven years ago in Alabama addict Sheila left behind her two sleeping preadolescent children at a campground to run off with her latest loser. When the older of the two youngsters, eight-year-old Tessa Lee awakens, she finds her toddler brother Travis roaming by himself with a telephone phone number marked by a magic marker on his back and a colorful cloak adorned with fireflies wrapped around him.------------- Several years later, fifteen years old Tessa Lee has lived with her maternal grandparents especially grandma Lil since the desertion incident, but Travis has since died. When Tessa Lee learns that her mother works as a mermaid at a Massachusetts boardwalk museum she decides to confront her mom expecting a valid reason for her leaving her two children behind. Tessa Lee runs to Massachusetts, but the woman she used to call mom, is not the same instead Sheila is a broken addict and offers little in the way of explanation. Will the child leave the mother this time as the grandmother worries she will fail for the third time as she believes she has with Sheila and Travis.---------------- This is an insightful family drama that targets highs school students and their parents with a deep tale. The story line does not hold back when it comes to the three key women especially the harmful behavior of Sheila (to herself as much as her children) the desperate obsession to know why by Tessa Lee who feels guilt over her sibling¿s death and Lil who takes responsibility for failing Shelia. The interrelationships that include the negative make for an insightful character study.------------- Harriet Klausner

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    Posted January 18, 2011

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