Each night, gifted and lonely twelve-year-old Ellie goes to the local cemetery to watch gravedigger, Fenton, do his job. Elusive and secretive about her appearances there, she keeps her distance from him and her head low.
Fenton buries the dead to atone for a past filled with death and mystery.
Theirs is not to be a simple relationship as secrets and lies keep them apart and drive them together in need.
GreatSummerReadsForTeens (Laura Masciarelli) – 5 stars
I feel like an old-time prospector, panning for gold, sifting through indie books, looking for treasure. When I downloaded Fierce Mind, I found my golden nugget! What an amazing book!
This book is pithy-full of concise ideas with much substance. When I was growing up, I equated pithy with uninteresting. Not so with Fierce Mind. It grabs at your interest and holds it steadily, page after page. It is a story of a fourteen-year-old girl, Ellie, having midnight conversations with a gravedigger, Fenton, in a dark graveyard. What drives the reader’s interest is the secrets-what happened during Fenton’s missing five years that he won’t ever divulge? What horrible secret is Ellie keeping about the happenings in her strange home? Who is the evil character, Ray Wilson and why is he coming to kill Fenton? Plus, there is a murderer on the loose-when and where will he pop into the story? I found there was no lull in this story where I could put the book aside. I wanted to keep reading, propelled by those secrets.
The characters are well-developed, interesting and endearing. My heart went out to Ellie, who is friendless, picked on in school for her intelligence and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that Fenton committed some unsavory acts during and after his time in Vietnam. Still, I found myself rooting for him to shake off his grief-induced lassitude and start living again.
What I really enjoy and actively seek out in a book is when ideas are presented that make me say, “Wow, I never thought about that before!” It expands me and induces my mind to go in directions I had previously never considered. Fierce Mind did that repeatedly. At times I thought the author had her toe over the line that demarcated preachy from non-preachy but did I hold that against her? Not at all. The story was too good! The ideas were too great!
In the last two months Suzanne Perazzini published several novels on amazon, which I can’t wait to start reading. Check out her bio on her food blog, Strands Of My Life. She’s such an interesting person!
What I loved about Fierce Mind: The wonderful ideas, the suspense, the unusual story line
What I did not love: Can’t think of a thing.
Overall: Fierce Mind is truly a treasure! A five-star wonder!
The spade struck the ground, clods of earth shattering with the blow. Ellie watched, mesmerized by the even rhythm of the gravedigger’s movements. In the silence of the clear night, she sat cross-legged on a dry patch of grass in front of an old tombstone and counted the words he sang in a voice, deep in timbre and wavering with emotion. She recognized the tune, had heard it playing on the classic radio channel her father listened to at eleven at night while getting ready to go to work.
Twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven. The counting was important. It helped her to absorb the meaning of the words. The gravedigger’s hands, strong and agile, held her gaze, fascinated the need in her for control. Those hands could defend the weak, fight for justice.
The singing stopped, the hands still. Ellie looked up at his face. He was watching her.
“Did you know,” she said, “that the weight of all the ants in the world exceeds that of all the mammals on Earth?”
He looked down into the hole he was digging. “Ants?” he said. “What are you doing out at this time of night?”
Ellie rubbed at her knees. “Bet ants live in that hole.”
“Sure, there are ants down there,” he replied, “but you didn’t answer my question. You should be at home in your bed. Where are your parents?”
She liked the sound of his voice – dark and resonant. “My mother’s dead and my daddy’s at work. He works at night like you. Why don’t you dig in the day?”
“Your mama’s dead? That’s bad, real bad.” He shook his head and the moonlight glanced off his high forehead. “I dig at night to be alone. Someone sees a black man digging a grave at night, it just seems right to them so they pass on without a word.”
“Not true. I saw you.”
He grinned, his teeth unexpectedly white. “But you, with your ants, are strange.”
A wind rose in the trees, rustled at the leaves and whirled about Ellie’s shoulders. She shivered as the sweet, lush scent of the nearby swamp closed about her. “That’s what they say at school. ‘There goes that strange girl’.”
“Do you often talk about ants at school?”
She grimaced. “No, of course not, but I remember stuff, try to fit it into the puzzle. Telling someone else helps me to find its position. But it’s not just that. They laugh at my counting, my straightening things, stuff that I do.”
“You really shouldn’t be here. What’s your name?”
“Ellie. What’s yours?”
“Fenton. How old are you?”
“Fourteen, two weeks ago. My father forgot. He always forgets things.” She poked at the ground with a stick. “How old are you?”
A chuckle. She liked him. He wasn’t scary – not one of those men she had been told not to talk to. But then again she’d never met one of them, so maybe she wouldn’t recognize one.
“I’m fifty-one, and my son forgot my birthday too.”
“Did your wife remember?”
“She died eight years ago, and my son’s in the north working in a factory in Chicago.” He raised his spade. “I’d better keep doing my job. Three dead arriving tomorrow – need the holes dug.”
“I’ll come and see you again in a couple of days.” Ellie stood up, walked away.
Fenton started digging again, the same song rising from his lips.