Larissa Renaud lives in her family’s antique shop in southern Louisiana, and she, like many middle grade protagonists, feels misunderstood by her parents and bereft of friends in her new town. So Larissa becomes fascinated with an old, disconnected telephone in the antique shop that somehow rings and connects her with someone who has a message for her. Larissa also develops a compulsion to find out more about the sinister but beautiful doll that her mother displays in the antique shop but refuses to sell because it’s a family heirloom.
If southern Louisiana is really as insular, superstitious, creepy, and dangerous as this book makes it out to be, I don’t ever want to live there. And if the only way to get rid of a family curse is to employ the services of a kindly neighborhood traiteur, I don’t want to go there either.
In Louisiana, the term traiteur (sometimes spelled treateur) describes a man or woman (a traiteuse) who practises what is sometimes called faith healing. A traiteur is Native Creole healer or a traditional healer of the French-speaking Houma Tribe, whose primary method of treatment involves using the laying on of hands. An important part of Creole folk religion, the traiteur combines Catholic prayer and medicinal remedies. They are called to treat a variety of ailments, including: earaches, toothaches, warts, tumors, angina, and bleeding. In the past, they substituted for trained physicians in remote rural areas of Acadiana. Most traiteurs consider their healing abilities a gift from God, and therefore refuse to accept payment in exchange for their services.
Traiteurism is a very old tradition that is dying out, and very few traiteurs now exist. Traditionally, the rituals of the traiteur are passed down to the opposite gender. So a male must pass it down to a female, and vice versa. The traiteur must be asked to perform the treatments and will rarely offer them outright unless the need is great, and they can not ask for a payment of any kind, although it is acceptable to accept gifts for treating a person. However gifts for a true traiteur are never required. Wikipedia, Traiteur
This book reminded me of the worst, as in spookiest and most disturbing, episode of Twilight Zone that I remember. It was called Living Doll, and it starred Telly Savalasas as a step-father who was being threatened by a talking doll. I’m afraid The Time of the Fireflies might give kids nightmares and an unhealthy fear of dolls just as that television program did for me. But if you’re ready to handle voodoo, a doll with a curse, creepy grandma in a wheelchair, alligators, fire and near-drowning, then go for it. The writing was OK, but some of the dialog was forced and manipulated in order to convey information to the reader. The cover should feature that creepy doll in the story instead of being all fireflies and light.
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This book is also nominated for a Cybil Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.