cover image Fireflies


David Morrell. Dutton Books, $16.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-525-24680-0

This is a semi-fictionalized account of the death, from a rare form of cancer, of the author's 15-year-old son. Morrell surrealistically finds himself on the floor of his kitchen, several days before Matthew dies; he has been in the future and, having read the hospital report on the causes of Matthew's death, wants to give his son antibiotics as a prophylactic against the septic shock that will ultimately kill him. Back in the present, the doctors at the University of Iowa hospital don't understand how the author can predict what will happen. They argue that antibiotics could weaken Matthew; they think Morrell is crazed from the strain of his son's illness. He sneaks into Matthew's hospital room and administers the drugs anyway, but they don't save the boy's life. Morrell (First Blood) tells of his family's fear and hurt; of his misapprehension of God's purpose; and of supernatural experiencesfireflies, that signify souls, appear to Morrell; one of them is Matthew, who speaks to his father; a dove trapped in the mausoleum at Matthew's funeral allows Morrell to set it free. A painful book to read; the son's courageand the father's anguishjump from the emotionally charged pages. But in terms of style, the comparison that comes to mind is not the dense introspection of, say, James Agee's A Death in the Family , but rather the melodramatic treatment of Eric Segal's Love Story . 50,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo (Nov.)