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Reviewed by Alyssa Elmore for Readers' Favorite
A young man must accept his painful past and face an uncertain future in the young adult novel, The Staircase of Fire by Ben Woodard. Fourteen-year-old Tom Wallace is no stranger to heartbreak and grief. After an unfortunate accident leaves him an orphan and the last surviving member of his immediate family, Tom is relocated to his uncle's farmhouse in Shakertown, Kentucky. Angry at himself for the loss of his mother and baby sister, Tom is not the best company. Only one thing gives him hope; the mystery of the Shaker Gold.
Confident that he and his cousin, Will, can find the hidden gold, Tom knows that it is his ticket out of the hell he's been living. Through the nightmares and episodes, there are only two people that make Tom's life worth living; his new girlfriend, Helen, and Will. Complications arise when Tom witnesses a crime that places his life and those he cares about in danger. As Tom struggles to adjust to living on a farm, he discovers that beneath the small town's friendly exterior beats the sinister heart of prejudice and hate. Can Tom release his past and finally appreciate his present? Will the boys find the gold, freeing Tom to escape from his demons?
The Staircase of Fire by Ben Woodard is an enticing coming of age novel with social issues and emotional growth at its roots. I enjoyed the story, set in the late twenties, but felt the addition of sexual encounters was unnecessary. I appreciated the author's ability to bring to life specific social issues that have been plaguing our country for far too long. The author's in-depth research into past circumstances has created a compelling story, leaving the reader hopeful for another installment. The story is wonderful. I liked the settings, and the characters are well-thought out. I recommend this book to older teen readers, due to light adult content.