What summer read is setting off fireworks this Fourth of July? Stars in the Grass fans have found this Christy-nominated novel brings laughter, tears, and nostalgic emotions within the first thirty pages through nine-year-old Abby McAndrews’s narration. The Fourth of July celebrated near the end of the novel symbolizes the family’s journey.
“I never want good things to end. When I unwrap Christmas presents, I dread opening the last one. At night, when Mom scratches my back, I don’t want her to leave until her tender caress soothes me to sleep and into my dreams. And how can I enjoy the Fourth of July fireworks when each explosion of color might mark the grand finale? It’s almost as though I need to know exactly how long the light show will last so that I can anticipate the dark.”
Abby McAndrews could not anticipate the dark her family would experience nor that when the world was most upside down, there was a new way to see light. After experiencing her greatest loss, in its wake, her family unravels with guilt, grief, and anger. Her father, Reverend McAndrews, cannot return to the pulpit because he has more questions than answers. Her older brother Matt’s actions speak louder than the words he needs to confess, as he acts out in dangerous ways. Her mother tries to hold her grieving family together, but when Abby’s dad refuses to move on, the family is at a crossroads. Set in a small Midwestern town in 1970, Stars in the Grass is an uplifting novel that explores a family’s relationships and resiliency. Abby’s heartbreaking remembrances are balanced by humor and nostalgia as her family struggles with—and ultimately celebrates—life after loss.
I wrote Stars in the Grass for a short story class while a grad student at UM. Even though I wasn’t married and didn’t have children, losing a child was my greatest fear. Subconsciously I hoped that if I put the subject on paper, I could somehow keep it from happening. Writing in the voice of a nine-year-old girl in 1970 brings a nostalgic and tender touch to a difficult subject. I invite readers to check out Barbour’s Stars book trailer. It’s a haunting look at a child’s narrative.
For your Fourth of July, like Abby and Matt, perhaps you name the types of fireworks: twizzler, big bang, fizzy, triple-decker, rainbow, buzzing bees, sparkler and want them to last beyond the grand ending.
“Just hold my hand, Abby. Enjoy them, and I’ll give you a triple squeeze when we hit the finale.”
My brother was holding my hand, and he had ridden the rides with me all day, and instead of heading off with his friends, he was staying with me for the fireworks. I wasn’t sure it got any better. He probably even remembered that a triple squeeze meant “I love you.” And maybe this was what heaven felt like: when you wanted a moment to go on forever.”
I hope your Fourth of July moments linger long. And as you sit beneath a canopy of stars, I hope you also find joy in Stars in the Grass — in more ways than one!
ANN MARIE STEWART grew up in Seattle where there are no stars in the grass. She now lives on Skyemoor Farm with her husband, two English Shepherds, two daughters and a flock of sheep which provide plenty of dramatic material for her Country Register Column, “Ann’s Lovin’ Ewe.” When Ann’s not at work on her second novel as well as a memoir about her grandparents’ escape from Russia in 1929, she can be found cheering on UVA basketball, watching Madam Secretary, or directing musical theater.