Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen

I have a problem. A good problem, that is. Unfortunately, it's not that I've been posting overmuch lately, acquiring comments and acclaim from near and far for my insightful blog posts and tantalizing reviews. I know, can you believe it? Actually, it's that I keep reading really good books and then I want to talk about them, but then I end up so absorbed in the next really good book that I, uh, never get around to talking about the last really awesome book. It all makes me wonder if the books are really good (they must be!) or if I'm really finally rediscovering my inner reading lover (She has an attention span! Oh the wonder of it all!) which had been subsumed by my inner crazed book lover (Yes, there is a difference which lies mostly in whether I'm really dedicated to acquiring great books or whether I'm really dedicated to reading great books).

So now I just finished another great one, and I don't know whether to go back and review the other really great ones, or if I should pick up with this most recent one and work backward through the awesome. After some thought, I've chosen the most recent, The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen, mostly because I haven't noticed it on many (any?) blogs, and am woefully saddened by that fact. That, and I've spent most of the time between now and when I finished it being really sad that I didn't have any more of it to read.

Should he believe this one? He'd lost track of the number of bank robberies attributed to his brothers - sometimes multiple banks on the same day, on opposite sides of the country. He was surprised that law enforcement hadn't found a way to pin the Lindbergh kidnapping on them, or maybe even the stock-market crash, or the depression itself. People seemed to believe his brothers possessed special gifts - that they could journey across space, multiply themselves, predict the future. They weren't men but ghosts, trickster spooks who disobeyed not only man's laws but God's as well.

It's the middle of the Great Depression in the United States. Unemployment rates are off the charts. The Hoovervilles are growing as more and more people lose their jobs and are evicted from their homes. Men wander the streets and stand in breadlines hoping to make enough money and get enough food to get by another day, another week. Having failed to make a living the "right" way under these inhospitable conditions, Jason and Whit Fireson turned to making ends meet in more nefarious ways. After the death of John Dillinger, the Firesons also known as "The Firefly Brothers," have become number one public enemies. A pair of skilled bank robbers, with their bold and well-timed strikes against villified financial institutions the Firefly Brothers have become both loved and feared by the less fortunate and more law abiding citizens of the US. With the help of the media, their lawless deeds have ballooned into a modern mythology. However, there's far more to the Firesons even than what the papers suppose.

The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers opens up a window on the lives of the unlikeliest of heros. Easily moving backward and forward through time from the perspectives of both themselves, Jason's girlfriend, and their decidedly less infamous brother, Mullen makes the "mythical" Firesons into the real people they are, for better and for worse.

While it's a rollicking tale of dashing bank robbers, high speed chases, narrow escapes, and shootouts, The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers is much, much more. It's a mystery wrapped in a touch of magic and modern day myth. It's an unfortunate yet accurate picture of a painful era of American history when men were reduced to helpless shells of themselves who couldn't hope to provide for their families and found themselves looking to bank robbers to provide the hope and the power that was missing from their lives. It's a saga about a family derailed by a father whose American dream turned into a nightmare and a son who couldn't seem to do the right thing, even when he tried his hardest. It's a story that starts, literally, with a bang and an impossible surprise, and slowly peels off layer after layer until we know all the players intimately, revealing the resolution to the mystery bit by bit keeping the pages turning until the ending that, if you're anything like me, you'll never see coming.

< gushing >
What I'm trying to say, if rather poorly, is that this book is really, really great, definitely in the top two I've read this year, and you should absolutely read it, even if I have done a poor job of conveying how much I loved it. It's so good. I felt it. I fell a little in love with the brothers as bank robbers and as men, even though they're far, far from perfect. The picture Mullen painted of this awfully desperate era is terribly vivid. And it all came together perfectly, and it was all just great. And I loved it. That is all.
< /gushing >

(FTC Disclaimer: I received this from the publisher, Random House, via LibraryThing Early Reviewers whose mystical algorithm, possibly for the first time, decided that the book I most wanted to read would be the book that I received.)


  1. I've never heard of this book before, but you've really piqued my interest! I bet my dad would love it too.

  2. Kathy - So glad I got it on your radar! I keep trying to decide if my dad would like it - he usually sticks to a particular set of authors - I think I'll have to make him give it a shot, at least!

  3. Wow, such a great review, Megan! I love how you said you FELT the book. I think I know exactly what you mean. I love that feeling :-)

  4. Same here. If I'm reading then I'm off writing, and vice versa.

  5. I tend to write my reviews of books immediately after reading them. On the one hand, this is good because I never really get behind on reviews. On the other hand, I don't take time to think before reviewing, meaning my reviews probably aren't as good as they could be.

  6. I loved this book!!! I felt everything you said and agree- I'm sad that there isn't more to read. I didn't want it to end. I agree that you fall a bit in love with them- at least with Jason on my part. As a newcomer to your blog I'm curious as to the other book in your top two of the year. I'm also curious as to how you took the ending?

  7. I LOVED this book too and totally am not giving it justice in my review. I am linking to your review, thanks!

  8. As I was writng in my "Books I've Read" journal, I realised I hadn't noted the authors name for the "Firefly Brothers". I left the book in another state for someone else to read and only noted the title. After googling the title, I noticed your blog. Glad to know other readers are commenting on this interesting read. I enjoyed and reccomend it too. This was my 16th book I've read this year!

  9. P.S.
    I also wonder as Jeen about the ending.