Anita Shreve is known for writing characters readers want to root for. Her characters are often so real that we find ourselves imaging our own reactions to the situations she places them in. She writes in a way that makes us empathize, often without even realizing it. Her latest novel, The Stars Are Fire, is no different.
One thing I’ll mention – and this really wasn’t a big deal – is that other than being loosely set in a town ravaged by fires in 1947, there’s very little to make this a historical fiction novel. The story could easily have taken place in another town in another place. That’s part of what makes The Stars Are Fire beautiful. It’s a timeless story of survival and redemption.
The other quick thing I’ll say is that you need to stick with this one. It’s short, only about 250 pages, but don’t mistake short for quick. The first two chapters felt interminable, and that’s what’s kept me from giving The Stars Are Fire five stars. Thankfully, the story picks up in the third chapter, and just keeps going. After I hit that third chapter, I couldn’t put it down….it was a 3am night for me. Worth it, though.
At first, I had a hard time with Grace. I didn’t understand why she put up with her husband. But that’s the point – you need to be frustrated with her in order to cheer for her. A woman you assume will be weak and helpless, is quite the opposite – and she does it naturally, without fanfare. Grace simply sets her mind to what must be done, and does it. That’s not to say she doesn’t have help along the way, because she does. The secondary (and even tertiary) characters are all superb, and feel just as important as Grace.
I wanted more information about the Great Fires of 1947 after reading The Stars Are Fire. The New England Historical Society has a pretty good overview here if you’re interested. Last year we experienced terrible wildfires here in the Smokies. Who knows, maybe someday Anita Shreve will write a book about us.
Hardcover: 241 pages Published: April 2017 by Knopf Publishing Source: Library via Overdrive
The Stars Are Fire on Goodreads
In October 1947, after a summer-long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast from Bar Harbor to Kittery and are soon racing out of control from town to village. Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her husband, Gene, joins the volunteer firefighters. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie’s two young children, Grace watches helplessly as their houses burn to the ground, the flames finally forcing them all into the ocean as a last resort. They spend the night frantically protecting their children and in the morning find their lives forever changed: homeless, penniless, awaiting news of their husbands’ fate, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists. In the midst of this devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms–joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain–and her spirit soars. Then the unthinkable happens and Grace’s bravery is tested as never before.
This post contains affiliate links.