6 reviews

Saving Cicadas
by Nicole Seitz

Published: 2009-12-01
Paperback : 314 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 3 of 6 members
A novel of unconditional love and the freedom of letting go. When single mother Priscilla Lynn Macy learns she's having another child unexpectedly, she packs the family into the car to escape. Eight-year-old Janie and Rainey Dae, her seventeen-year-old sister with special needs, embark on the ...
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A novel of unconditional love and the freedom of letting go. When single mother Priscilla Lynn Macy learns she's having another child unexpectedly, she packs the family into the car to escape. Eight-year-old Janie and Rainey Dae, her seventeen-year-old sister with special needs, embark on the last family vacation they'll ever take with Poppy and Grandma Mona in the back seat. The trip seems aimless until Janie realizes they are searching for the father who left them years ago. When they can't find him, they make their way to Forest Pines, SC. Priscilla hasn't been to her family home in many years and finds it a mixed blessing of hope, buried secrets, and family ghosts. Through eyes of innocence, Janie learns the hard realities of life and the difficult choices grownups make. And she must face disturbing truths about the people she loves in order to carry them in the moments that matter most.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.



The Window

“Do you believe in…past lives?”

She’s waited a week to get the gumption to ask him, but now she’s second-guessing. Priscilla keeps her knees together and smoothes the flowers in her skirt. She pulls her hair to the right side of her head and stares at the big black book on his desk. “I mean, I know you don’t, but—”

“Why?” he says. “Do you believe?” A flash of sunlight fills the room—a temporary break in the clouded sky. And then it’s gone, and all is gray again.

“I’m not sure. I’m starting to wonder.”

He swivels his chair and leans back, cracking his knuckles, one after the other after the other. “I can tell you, you’re not the first to ask. We’ve got some Cherokees here, and the traditional belief of rebirth comes up every now and again. Usually when somebody loses a loved one.”

Priscilla stares down at her knees.

“I certainly don’t claim to know all the mysteries of God,” says Fritz, “but I do know we all have former selves, pasts we’ve got to deal with and learn from. Otherwise we carry these former lives on our shoulders, unable to let go.” Priscilla glances up at him finally, searching his face. “Some people remain stuck living past lives. But you can exchange that burden for something wonderful—”

“No. That’s not really what I’m talking about, Fritz. I do understand what you’re saying, it’s just…”

“What is it, Priscilla?”

She tucks a strand of long blonde hair behind her ear and shakes her head, studying the lines of his simple pine desk. “She’s…she remembers things. Things she can’t possibly remember. She talks about family members, ones who’ve been gone for years now. I don’t know, maybe it’s the photographs, or maybe I’ve talked about them to her or around her. Maybe she’s just extra sensitive, attentive. I can usually explain it away, except…”

“Except what?”

She looks him in the eye and says, “The window.”

Fritz pauses and glances at the window behind Priscilla’s shoulder. It’s simple and unadorned, unlike the ones in the other room with their magnificent colors and stories. On the other side of the clear-paned glass, a mockingbird swoops to the ground and calls out warning beneath a blanketed sky. “Tell me about this window,” Fritz says.

“She can describe it to me in detail…but I don’t know how. I’ve never talked about it. To anyone.”

“I see.”

“It comes to me in my dreams. The window.”

“You’re thinking she can read your mind now?”

“I don’t know, I—”

“Maybe you talk in your sleep.”

“No. It’s not like that,” Priscilla says. “She’s special. You know her. There’s something…different about her. There always has been.”

“If you ask me, I’d say she’s a bright, loving child. Tell me. Does she seem troubled by these memories?”

“No. She acts as if nothing is strange at all, as if it was just the other day or something. She goes on and on about that summer too…when we left Cypresswood. It just unnerves me.” Priscilla uses her left hand to pull her right arm close to her side.

“If you’d like me to talk with her, you know I will. But, maybe not just yet.” Fritz leans forward and places his elbows on his knees. He clasps his hands together and looks just over her shoulder, then finally meets her eyes. “We each have something, Priscilla, some memory that haunts us, that shows up in our dreams. In your case, it’s a window. Maybe what bothers you is not that your daughter remembers this window she can’t possibly know, but that she reminds you of the thing it represents—something you thought you’d let go of long ago.”

She looks up at him and her lip trembles as if she may cry or speak. She does neither.

“She’s a good girl, Priscilla. A blessing in your life. Sometimes God has a way of using children to speak to us. To lead us closer to him. If you want my advice, let her lead you. She may say something truly worth hearing one of these days.”

Fritz takes Priscilla’s free hand and squeezes it, and the two sit engulfed in the moment, oblivious to the fact that they’re not alone. Hidden in the shadowy corner of the preacher’s office, a lone head bows and whispers, Amen.



Flying Dreams


Come over here by the light and let me see what pretty pictures you drew. Oh, this one here is my favorite, Janie. Is this a car?

Yes, ma’am.

Can you tell me about it?

I trace my finger along the red and blue lines on construction paper, the green blurred trees, the yellow circles for faces—then I close my eyes. It’s how I remember best.

It was about four years ago, the last trip we ever took together—my mother, sister, grandparents and me. Course, we didn’t know it at the time. You never know something like that, like it’s the last one you’ll ever get, till it’s just a memory, hanging like mist. This is what happened that summer, true as I can tell it. Not a one of us was ever the same.

I sat in the front seat, all eight and a half years of me, twirling my hair and trying to hum a happy tune. I did this, knowing Mama was nothing at all close to being happy after just finding out she was having another child. In fact, sitting so close to her I thought my mama’s fear and anger smelled a lot like dill pickle relish and red onions. Or maybe it was just Grandma Mona, old and mean and full of egg salad, breathing down our necks from behind the seat.

Some things, like the smell of fear and anger—and guilt—are enough to drive anybody out on the road, even when gas prices are about to kill you.

A gallon of gas had soared to over four dollars that summer, and Mama said that alone might do her in. Not like she had a money tree or anything in the back yard. Hers was hollow, dead, and bearing no fruit—certainly no dollar bills. No, Priscilla Lynn Macy was a working woman, said she gave her life and youth to the pancake house. So you might think it strange we would set out on the highway. I did, anyway. But I would soon find out this was no regular summer vacation. We were destined to go.

Mama had stuck her long blonde hair in a ponytail, packed the whole caboodle into the car—the past, the present, the future—and we were barreling down I-26 at seventy-five miles an hour, and she had absolutely no idea where she was going, or maybe she did. Maybe she knew deep down she wasn’t running away from her problems but hauling them right along with her.

Rainey Dae Macy, my seventeen-year-old sister, hugged a plastic baby doll in the back seat and watched the trees blur into a long green line. She didn’t like change or surprise vacations, but she kept her mouth shut anyway. She was used to doing whatever pleased Mama, fearing her special needs made Mama’s life just a little bit harder than most.

I was more or less a normal kid. Like most, I dreamed of saving the world someday. Not like superwoman, but I don’t know—making sure kids had clothes and enough to eat, making sure people like Mama had good jobs that made money and made them feel good when they went home each day, like they did something with their brains—like they did something to help the world in some small way. Not like they were wasting every second of every day of every year of their lives—like Mama had said, oh, more than a time or two.


Two nights before we left Cypresswood, Mama was tucking Rainey into her princess sheets on the top bunk when she asked her how many days there were until Christmas.

“About six months,” Mama said.

“How many days?” Rainey insisted. She liked to count things. She was good at it. And she counted days like seconds, like sand.

“Let’s see…a hundred and ninety, I think.”

Rainey started to whine, “That long? I want it now.”

My mother was sensitive to any talk about Christmas presents. She’d hear one and add it to her master list. That way, come holiday time, she wasn’t scrambling to save money and frantic to buy. So she asked, full of hope, “Why, is there something you want for Christmas, honey?”

“Yeah, but…I cain’t tell you,” said Rainey.

“Why not?”

“I made a wish. On a dandelion. Won’t come true if I say it.”

“If you tell me, honey, I can help you write a letter and make sure Santa knows about it.”

“Huh-uh,” said Rainey. “God knows. He tell Santa.”

I was lying in the bottom bunk, listening to the whole thing. I was wise for my age. Not meaning any harm, Mama often said things in my presence that aged me, partly because she was a single mother doing the job of two, and partly because she had a special needs child and a crappy job and she was going gray early. Sometimes, she’d just about talk to the wind in order to get it all out.

So I, Janie Doe Macy, listening to the wish conversation and knowing my mother the way I did—how hard she worked, how hard she tried—felt sorry for her.

“Don’t worry, Mama,” I said. “I’ll get her to tell me. I can help you make sure Santa gets the message.”

Mama kissed Rainey on the cheek and on her flattened nose and on her upturned eyes.

“Goodnight, sweetheart.”

“Night, Mama. Don’t forget Janie light.” Rainey knew I was deathly afraid of the dark.

“Goodnight, sweet Janie. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

“’Night,” I said.

Mama reached down and turned on the night-light, then she stood there at the door, not leaving, and smiled at us in a strange sort of way. She started counting on her fingers. Then she spouted out, “Oh good gosh, I’m late. I’m never late.” She reminded me of the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, and I wondered what she could be late for at this hour. The light from the window was turning sapphire blue.

When the door closed, I looked up to the top bunk and whispered, “Rainey, you can tell me your wish. Sisters don’t count.”

“Huh-uh. I wished on the dandelion. It won’t be true.”

“Rainey, just tell me. Please?”

It was quiet from the top. Then Rainey leaned over the edge and looked at me. Concern spread like butter across her face. “Oh, I prob-ly won’t get it. I wish… I wish I had wings and flied around.”

“Oh. Really? Like an airplane? Like a bird?” I bit my lip and turned my head to the wall, heartsick, knowing the wings she wanted couldn’t possibly come true. Not even Santa could pull that one off.

“Like a angel.” I heard Rainey lay back on her pillow.

“Gee, Rain. I don’t know if that one can happen. I used to wish the same thing when I was little. But I’ve had dreams where I’ve been flying. Have you ever had one of those? You’re high up over the trees and the buildings and it feels like you can do anything at all, like nothing is impossible?”

“No.” Rainey sniffled. The room was growing darker.

“You should tell Mama about the wings,” I said. “You know if she can help it come true, she will. Remember how she put you in the Olympics and you won that pretty medal for running? Member that?”

“Yeah, I member.”

My sister and I stopped talking after that and settled in for sleep. Knowing Rainey, she was praying even harder for her wings, never minding she couldn’t get them.

In the bottom bunk, I lay there trying to remember that feeling, what it felt like to fly. And I fell asleep hoping, just maybe, I’d have one of those carefree, light-as-air flying dreams again like I used to when I was much younger than the wise old age of eight-and-a-half. For some reason, I suspected my wings were too short to ever catch air and lift me off the ground—that some children, no matter how hard they try, will never fly.

Copyright ©2009 Nicole Seitz. Reprinted with permission from Thomas Nelson. view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

The first line of the book is, “Do you believe in past lives?” Discuss this theme of “past lives” in Saving Cicadas. Who has them? What power do “past lives” play in the characters’ lives? What power do they have in our own lives?

Saving Cicadas is narrated by a child. Do you remember something you thought as a child that was incorrect? Do you remember the first time you learned a difficult truth? Janie and Rainey see the world in black and white, right or wrong. When do shades of gray begin to cloud our vision? Is it possible to view the world in black and white again? Should we?

What are the challenges Priscilla faces when she learns that she’s pregnant? How does she deal with the news?

Rainey has Down’s Syndrome. In what ways does this affect her character? Her future? How does it affect her family dynamics? What challenges do special needs children present? What blessings do they offer? Have you been touched in your own life by someone with Down’s Syndrome? In what way?

What are Priscilla’s choices regarding her pregnancy? Do you believe every woman has the right to choose? Does every woman face the same choices or are they weighted based on circumstance? How does making a poor choice affect future choices?

Do you know of someone who has faced an unplanned pregnancy? If so, what choice did she make? How did her choice affect her in the long run?

What is the most powerful scene in the book for you?

With which character do you most relate? Priscilla, Mona, Rainey, or Janie?

The Internet allows us access to all sorts of information. Do you think it can affect the choices we make? If you did not grow up with the Internet, do you feel you were as informed as are the youth of today? How might your life have been different?

What is Poppy’s role in this book? What about Grandma Mona’s? Why did she seem to change so much?

Discuss the character of Harlan. Though he’s gone, does he play an important part in the Macy family?

There is a theme of “ghosts” and being “spirit-filled” in Saving Cicadas. Discuss.

Why is it so hard for Priscilla to go back home to Forest Pines? Is it important for people to go back home? Why or why not?

Discuss the role of fear in this book. Who is fearful? Of what? Does fear affect the decisions the characters make? Is anyone courageous?

Who is the true heroine of this book? Does she get what she wants in the end?

Discuss faith or lack thereof as it relates to Fritz, Priscilla, Janie, and Rainey.

In the end, does Priscilla share her secret of the window? Why or why not?

Why do you think the title is Saving Cicadas? Is it possible to save cicadas? Who is attempting to save them?

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Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

A note from author Nicole Seitz:

Dear Reader,

My brother stole a Baby Jesus from church one Christmas when he was little. My mother was mortified when she found Jesus in his pants pocket. She promptly taught him about stealing and right and wrong, and soon he, like all children, began to see the world in black and white—much differently than the shades of gray we grownups see.

I’m excited to share my fourth novel with you, SAVING CICADAS. You’ll fall in love with Rainey Dae Macy, a 17-year-old with special needs, who wants desperately for Baby Jesus to come to her house. Yes, she’ll even go so far as stealing. But it’s her 8-year-old sister, Janie, who narrates the book and steals the show.

When the girls’ single mother, a small-town pancake waitress, finds she’s pregnant again unexpectedly, they haul off on the last family vacation they’ll ever take—a journey of mixed blessings—of hope, buried secrets, and family ghosts.

“This story of one single mother’s struggle to survive will leave you awe-struck." — Beth Webb Hart, author of Grace at Low Tide

“What a deeply moving novel! I literally could not put it down…" — Fireside Books & Gifts

I hope you’ll have a hard time forgetting the Macy family. I know I will.

Book Club Recommendations

Read with an open mind
by GrandmaNaNa (see profile) 02/24/10
makes you value the people in your life and want to call your Mama and thank her for your own life.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "Unpredictable and exciting!"by Lisa F. (see profile) 08/22/10

I won this book for our book club a while ago but my month to pick a book isn't until next January. Instead of holding on to it til then I gave it out at the June book club just as an extra read since... (read more)

  "Everyone in our book club LOVED this book and we are just your average, exceptional everyday women!"by Cari M. (see profile) 08/17/10

I am surprised at the previous reviews I just read here. These readers are terribly defensive about the subject matter. I didn't take it the way they did at all. As a matter of fact, I found that those... (read more)

  "I did not like it!"by Sandra V. (see profile) 03/03/10

I did not care for the highly Christian and anti abortion element in the book. I do not care for having religion thrown in my face and I do not feel that the author's emphatic anti abortion views should... (read more)

  "Unexpected subject matter"by Linda E. (see profile) 02/24/10

From the outset I could never imagine where the story would lead from the beginning; the ending took me the reader on an unexpected journey of discovery about a subject often taboo even in society today... (read more)

  "Saving Cicadas"by carol L. (see profile) 02/13/10

If I could have given it less than one star, I would have. I will not give this book to anyone, sell it at a garage sale or donate it to a book sale. The only thing worth doing with it is tearing it... (read more)

  "Saving Cicadas"by Mary Ann B. (see profile) 02/09/10

Nowhere in any description did it tell you what the book was really about.
Yes, there were surprises but I wish I had known what was coming.
This book had an overwhelming Christian elemen

... (read more)

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