Fantasy Book Review – Fireflies by P.S. Bartlett
It begins when Ennis, only six and a bit sweet and shy since his difficult birth, picks up a bird. His sister has left to find a shovel to bury it, for it is dead. But when Ennis picks it up, somehow something wonderful finds its way through Ennis to the bird, and it flies away. That was when they first realized that Ennis could heal. That gift would lead to more discoveries along the way.
For Ennis is a special child. The youngest of a large family, he is surrounded by love but has always been treated just a bit more carefully. We learn why as we hear of his difficult birth. One that was touch-and-go, even with a father who is an experienced doctor. But now, somehow things have shifted around him, and he isn’t sure why. Ennis feels compelled to heal. He cannot explain how he does it; he just knows that he should. But how he is gifted, and why, becomes the question.
A Time of Beginnings
This wonderfully sweet and caring story has some dark edges to it. There is just enough of that to keep it from being too “Little House on the Prairie”, even though the background is the early days of the settling of America. In the 1800s many Irish came to the New World to start a new life. As we meet Ennis, his parents Owen and Sarah and his six brothers and sisters, we get a sense of just what it took to keep a household going and a family together during these times. It took hard work and plenty of faith.
A Gift – From Who?
What starts as simple healings, grow in a short time. Soon his gifts expand beyond just the healing, and with it come the fears. What does all this mean? With the surprise of these new gifts come other kinds of revelations. We learn of the sacrifices and pain that came with the voyages his parents made from Ireland to America. We discover, along with Ennis, of the price that they paid, in more than money.
This is almost a ghost story and certainly a fantasy, with gentle paranormal elements. I found myself lost in the world Barlett created and caring what happens to this marvelous little boy, as well as his family. Their dreams and hopes are soon eclipsed by Ennis’s struggle to be at peace with the gifts and what they mean. And even more importantly – what they portend.
The Role of the Spirit
One of the things I loved about this book, and kept thinking about as I read it, was how in this era there was this total fear of the unknown and complete acceptance of the spiritual. We forget sometimes the huge role spirituality had in many people’s lives in those days. That role is one of the primary things that moved this book. For the family does not question that Ennis has this gift, just what it will do to the family.
I don’t want to go too far into what is done to discover who or what is behind these changes in Ennis. I will say however, bring a full box of tissues when you sit down to read. There are parts that will tug at your heartstrings and the ending will fill you with joy.
A Different Kind of Fantasy Book
Not the usual ghost story, but not just a tale of a family in America either. This has a very different sensibility to it, one that gives the paranormal a different role than the one we usually read about in fantasy books these days.
Don’t get me wrong, here. This is still a fantasy story, but it is a very different sort of fantasy tale. It holds out a promise of some really interesting stories yet to come from a very promising new writer. If this is just her first book, I am really looking forward to seeing what Bartlett will come up with next!