3 out of 4 stars
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Set in the 1960s Ohio, Fiery Rivers is a historical fiction written by Daefyd Williams.
Ten-year-old Devon Hensley lives with his family in Franklin, Ohio. Devon, being taller than everybody else in his class, feels awkward, and his height in addition to his clumsiness makes him an object of ridicule and mockery. Her mother’s constant rebuke does not help to make Devon feel any better.
After his father Adam and mother Marie were saved from their sins by accepting Jesus as their savior in 1953, they started to live rigidly and in accordance with their Christian belief which means no adherence to the pleasures of the flesh including television and secular music. Then, Adam, after hearing a message from God instructing him to save souls, takes his family to Snyderville, and shortly thereafter puts up a church. In the first revival held in the new church, Devon hears Brother Peatry from Tennessee preach about one unforgivable sin, a sin which Devon eventually commits that will lead to a painful struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder until later in his life.
Told in the third person perspective, the book features the Hensley Family and other families which are related to the Hensleys either by blood or by proximity. The book has two main themes: sex, particularly each character’s view on sex as well as his or her sexual preference, and religion, specifically the characters’ beliefs, practices and interpretations of God’s messages.
This is a story that realistically depicts life in the 1960s, when children play outdoors, help with the chores, get the belt for misbehaving and go to church with their parents. The author successfully recreates that atmosphere of long ago that reading the book feels like traveling back in time. Needless to say, the author is particularly adept in describing settings. Moreover, he is great with characterization. He creates well-developed and easily relatable characters. By furnishing them with sufficient back stories, the author makes them undeniably realistic. There are two things I like most about the book, how it presents: first, the effects of constant reproach of the parents to the child and second, the effects of differences in sexual preferences between couples.
However, I find the pacing too slow for my taste. Moreover, there are too many characters that it is difficult to tell who is who and which is which. It takes a lot of going back to previous chapters to keep track of them and their relationship with the main characters. Furthermore, there are several details that I find irrelevant which, I believe, made the book longer than necessary. In addition, there are some unexplained occurrences that may easily be attributed to magic or paranormal but still may leave the readers with an incomplete feeling at the end of the book. Finally, the realistic portrayal of the local accent makes reading difficult.
I, therefore, rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. It is interesting and well written. I recommend it to readers who appreciate historical fiction and stories about sex and religion. Scenes of sex and references to sexual activities are not suitable for young readers.
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