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.
The women 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. And then the unthinkable happens–and Grace’s bravery is tested as never before.
I love when authors use an actual event to inspire their story. Anita Shreve wrote a story of courage, while incorporating Maine’s 1947 great fire as her backdrop.
Grace and Gene have two young children, Claire and Tom. Grace is very unhappy in her marriage to Gene; he’s not the person he was when they first met. He’s good with the kids, but doesn’t say more than just a few words to her on any given day. A long lasting drought has set in and a fire has started that seems unstoppable. One day Gene sets off, with many of the other men in town, to create a firebreak in order to keep the fire from burning their hometown of Hunts Beach. Grace is left at home with the kids and will have to find a way to survive the fire alone without him – she does not know when or if he will be back. It isn’t until she walks through the fire (so to speak) and needs to rebuild her life that she finds the inner-courage, strength, and perseverance she never knew she had.
When I first sat down to read this book I scanned the Table of Contents. I found the chapter titles to be a refreshing approach: Wet, Dry, Spark, Fire, Cinders, News, and so on. I enjoyed seeing the growth Grace made when her back was to the wall and she needed to stand on her own two feet. She had to find a way to take care of herself and her kids not knowing when or if her husband would return. There were times when the story would move from one place to another quite abruptly with decent time gaps in between. This made the story feel a bit choppy at times.
Overall I didn’t dislike the story, but I wasn’t blown away by it either. I did find myself wanting to continue reading it to see how it would turn out, cheering Grace on the whole way.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 5/2/2017
Pages: 256 (eBook)
Do you have a favorite Anita Shreve book?