The Light of the Fireflies by Paul Pen: Review


The Light of the Fireflies

While scanning through the recommendations on my Kindle page, I spotted this cover and instantly read the description and downloaded the title. I’ve decided that this book is what would happen if Room met The Shock of the Fall and had a book baby involving insects.

I read the entire book in less than two days and could not put it down. Finding myself constantly running between the emotions of wanting The Boy to experience the world, and wanting The Boy to stay and be with his family was exhausting. When I finished the book I found myself unable to describe it eloquently without ruining everything that I loved discovering firsthand.

The language and writing style of Paul Pen is exquisite, and I found myself really needing to highlight things I found poignant  multiple times in every chapter. The ability to portray a child as being adored, required, and desperately wanted but still  abused was not only astonishing to read but was breathtakingly emotional. The book handles a lot of hard topics, including incest, murder, and mental health.

The Boy has only known the basement. The Boy’s father has told him all about the outside world and he believes that leaving will hurt worse than a thousand blisters.

“Up there, outside, the bubbles are a hundred times bigger. You wouldn’t be able to stand the pain. “

The dark walls he sees, the family that he eats carrot soup with, the bike he rides for exercise, and The Cricketman are all snapshots captured with the vivid imagination and wonder you could expect from any resourceful child.

It isn’t until The Boy’s sister has a baby (on the kitchen table)–without a father to be named in the basement, that he begins to question why they are all in the basement and about the life others have outside.

“The momentary chrysalis of tranquility split open to let out a black moth of absolute terror.”


After the baby is born The boy begins to make connections and ask questions about life outside the basement. His sister begins to speak secretly with him, and she reveals some awful insight into what life is really like in the basement.

Once we flashback to the eleventh year prior to their self-imprisonment in the basement we see exactly what life was like for the family before being in their confines. The events that really placed them in their current states, and as a reader I found myself entirely unsympathetic.

As much as I really enjoyed this book, I can’t bring myself to understand the rationality of why the family does what they did. That was the only frustrating aspect for me–wanting to think that they did everything for a good reason. Putting one child above another, and refusing to accept reality as well as misplaced blame all seem like major thematic schemes in the story.




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