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cover shreve stars are fire

For some reason, I think of Anita Shreve’s books as “beach reads,” and her newest “The Stars Are Fire” will most likely be a summer favorite in 2017. Thanks to Knopf Doubleday and NetGalley, I received an advance copy in exchange for this honest review.

The story is set in Maine in 1947, and begins with a very wet rainy season. As summer comes, the initial relief felt by the townspeople of the coastal town where Grace Holland lives with her husband Gene and their two children is short-lived as they enter a period of serious drought. Both these seasons are described with words that make the reader feel first the bleak and gray dampness and then the oppressive airless dry heat.

Grace is living with a taciturn man and apparently thinks he is a good husband…even though there is no joy or warmth between them. “When Grace walks into her mother’s home, she has a sensation of great warmth and safety. This doesn’t occur in her own house despite the fact that at night and on Sundays, there’s a man to protect  her.” Her life “…before she met Gene, before life became uncertain and even a little frightening,” was strictly confined and she grasps at small moments of freedom when she can do nothing more than sit and stare at the ocean.

When fires break out along the coast in October, Gene volunteers to go off to fight the fires leaving five-months-pregnant Grace with two kids both younger than two to fend for themselves. The entire town pretty much burns to the ground, and Grace is left homeless and penniless. Out of this tragedy comes the opportunity for Grace to discover herself as an individual, rather than just in relation to a (crappy) husband. She blossoms, her spirit soars, and then…well, things change. To reveal more would spoil what is quite an interesting story.

I enjoyed reading this…it’s an easy read, and the people are written so that we come to care about what happens to them. I give it four stars.

After reading it, I did some research on the terrible fires which devastated Maine in 1947. That made the story even more real for me, and I appreciate the author’s skill in bringing this bit of history alive.