Life, Death, and Firecrackers

At the End of the Day I Burst Into Flames by Nicholas Day

Book Review by Tracy Robinson

About At the End of the Day I Burst Into Flames

These are his final moments.

imageIn the little city of Wood River, Illinois, a man nicknamed Firecracker knows the end is near. The fire is coming, just like it came for his father, his grandfather, and who knows how many men. After all, folks in those parts have a short-term memory when it comes to history, and lots of stories have a tendency to go to the grave. Maybe the fire was always there. Maybe it came along when the oil refinery went up in 1907. Who can say? Sometimes, a yarn like this is as close to a history book as a Midwest community and its people are apt to get.

When it happened to his father, the doctors only called it an accident. But Firecracker’s mother had a name for it: spontaneous combustion. Firecracker knows there is no way to escape this Act of God, so he retreats into his memories. Past and present become one and the same. The veil of reality pulls away and Death arrives in time for one last conversation, where Firecracker comes to terms with the mysteries of his own life, and realizes that some questions are not nearly as important as the moments which spawned them.

From the first line of the tale that sees his eyes explode to–moments and pages later–his whole body being consumed by flame, Firecracker experiences his life and loves through a succession of memories, reveals his friendship with Death, and talks about the men in his family’s unfortunate predisposition.

This is a yarn about life and death and spontaneous human combustion.

This is a tale of a man with a fire inside him.

At the End of the Day I Burst into Flames is a horror story about how beautiful love can be.

Book Review

“We yearn for one another until we can only yearn for the facsimile, then at the end we have neither and we are forced – ourselves – to become a recording, a ghost, to be remembered during someone else’s seance, someone else’s favorite song.”

This is my first time reading work from Day and I went into this novella with little to no idea of what to expect. The synopsis above gives a decent idea of what happens (I did not read it prior to reading), and as I look back to it, I realize that it only scratches the surface of this deep and thought-provoking read.

In 79 pages of some of the most beautiful and bizarre literary writing, Nicholas Day takes us on a journey of love, horror, loss, and what it means to truly live…and die. The quote above is just one of the many highlights I made in my ebook version. Another one that touched me is, “At some point, you lose it all and what you are left with is knowing that you lived, that you heard a voice, saw a face, touched another human being.” Our protagonist (Firecracker) feels his life coming to an end as he soon expects to die by spontaneous combustion just as his father did. What will we think of when we know death is creeping in? What is important in this world? This book is Day’s exploration.

Although the content is heavy and tense at times, the author is able to inject moments of levity, kindness, and wit. This book grabbed me in; as I finished and read the Acknowledgements, I realized that this is also a very personal piece for the author himself, more so than usual. Thank you, Mr. Day, for inviting me into this world and providing thoughts on life I am sometimes too busy to consider. I am eager to pick up more of this author’s work and I urge you to give this one a try.

Rating: 5 out 5


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