One man tells this gripping story from inside his prison cell sharing it with a Father before his date of execution. Learning what he did, understanding his life we take a trip back in time when Kennedy and Dr. King were prevalent figures, when the Vietnam War was about to begin and many young men would decide on their fates whether to go to the army or go AWOL.
Hearing the voice of Daniel Ford you begin to understand his life, how he viewed himself in prison, his relationship with Eva Chantry and the fact that he cared so much about someone who was all alone. Knowing she had a stroke, calling for medical help it was apparent even back then as it is now that without medical insurance and money she would die. The doctor suggested a state hospital but Daniel would look in on her. The times were getting more violent, he was waiting his notice to go to boot camp and his friendship with Nathan had changed. Author R. J. Ellory takes us back to South Carolina inside Death Row, hearing the voice of the convicted killer, those that he encountered and finally the end result.
As Nathan decides against going to War and Eva explains to Daniel the definition of the candlemoth we begin to understand the next part of his journey as she states only he can decide what do and where he wants to go. Explaining on pages 116-119 the meaning of the candlemoth, why the moth is attracted to the light, the beauty it exhibits in its own wing in the light and the last few minutes before it burns within the flame turn yellow, red and blue and the moth becomes a butterfly at last. On the bottom of page 117 she explains how people might change their viewpoints and have a different perspective about something and you heart and what you believe will guide you to make the decisions you need. So, when Nathan decides to leave his home and not consider the draft Why does Daniel leave his life and go with Nathan? Where did they wind up and how did the world treat them? Who did they meet along the way and what lessons would they learn about people? Just what follows will bring more than tears to your eyes and anger within your heart as two young man face more than just the prejudice of the times, the deaths of so many prominent figures but the inner turmoil and war within themselves. How did the war change so many? Why did they both feel that did not want to fight? Why did so many have to die? As we learn about Malcolm X, Robert Kennedy, Nixon and the turbulent times we learn what happens when two young men decide to go AWOL. Then, we flash to the present as Daniel learns that he now has 36 days to live and will be executed on that last day. Why did he kill Daniel? Why did he care so much for Mrs. Chantry? Why did he protect Nathan? Why wasn’t anyone there for him now?
Author R.J. Ellory’s research is extensive, the inclusion of the many presidents and our history vital to help young people and adults understand the times and the character’s plight. Candlemoth brings to light the issues of prejudice, hate and segregation. It brings to light one man’s voice, his final days and his reasons for killing his best friend. Walking that last mile you might say and learning about his past, the deceits, lies and betrayals you get to understand Daniel his life and where he is coming from.
Take the journey inside the prison walls and listen to those he meets, find out more about the deaths of so many, his relationship with Nathan, his with Caroline, the wars, the army and the loyalty he felt for one young man and the discord he faced because of it. His relationships with girls, the short lived ones that changed him as he thought into a man, the prison warden named Mr. West he seemed to glow in the misery of others and reminded him that the electric chair would be his final seat and the sadness and despair he was feeling would outweigh the memories of the good times.
Greenleaf South Carolina was a peaceful and quite town and the inmates and warden described seem so harsh as they fit into the backdrop of this place. So, what happened and why did he kill his best friend? The author includes the history of the times but it is told in the voice of one of the prisoners before he dies allowing readers to get the full force or impact of what not only Nathan but Daniel endured at the hands of so many. Escaping the draft by leaving town, the author relates their journey, their fights, their experiences and their desire for the same woman. Linny Goldbourne was notorious for getting what she wanted but one fateful night would change it all. Falling for Nathan was not what her father wanted and the end result would be more than just tragic. As they traveled together Nathan and Daniel would change and their perspectives on life would not only bring them to face adversity but would challenge them to the core. As the Father learns more about Daniel and what happened that caused Nathan’s death he realizes that that some circumstances are and appearances are not what they seem. So, what can he do if anything to stop the inevitable? Why did the warden want Daniel dead? Who was behind what really happened and why won’t anyone help him? Nathan wound up dead and Linny severely injured and put in a mental institution. But, when you hear the words and questions of the police and Daniel’s confession you begin to understand just what the meaning of cover-up is and what really did happen to Nathan? When the author relates his fate and the end result described you realize why so many say that money talks and those that cannot afford often suffer.
When the story unfolds and the truth is revealed the ending is one that only author R.J. Ellory could masterfully create. Lies, deceits and more than just hate mark the reasons for a young man’s life to end and another forced to pay for it. Just what happens to Daniel and what will the final chair be that he sits in you have to learn for yourself. Just what does losing your faith and regaining it mean? What happens when the tide is so strong you life at an end and your healing needs to begin? How do you forgive what others have done to you? Can you? Candlemoth will keep you up long after you read it with its haunting descriptions, vivid encounters, graphic historical events and one man named Daniel Ford and one named Nathan Verney that will teach you the true meaning of friendship and loyalty. This is one book that will haunt you long after you finish reading it and make you wonder just what is next for the people of this small town. Will prejudice ever be erased? Will there ever be a time when we judge others for who they are and not the color of their skin or race? Author R.J. Ellory definitely scores high with this one.
Fran Lewis: reviewer