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Things We Set On Fire

3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,889 Ratings  ·  578 Reviews
From the best-selling author of Carry Yourself Back to Me comes another tightly plotted, emotionally complex novel about strangers who happen to be part of the same family.

A series of tragedies brings Vivvie’s young grandchildren into her custody, and her two estranged daughters back under one roof. Jackson, Vivvie’s husband, was shot and killed 30 years ago, and the ramif
Paperback, 223 pages
Published October 22nd 2013 by Amazon Publishing
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Jean A lot of things were unclear about this story. Maybe it needed more editing--or just more thought put into untangling the story lines.

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Nov 30, 2013 Ana rated it it was ok
This book was just a potentially good book that never quite lived up to its potential. First things first. (There might be spoilers)

The Good:

It's well written. The author is clearly not a novice with words and it shows in the way it is written. The plot could have been compelling and its a simple, sad story.

The Bad:
1.) I like well written books. When combined with a great plot, it can result in excellence. But this book was overly descriptive and I found myself skimming through paragraphs becau
Ashley Mackler-Paternostro
Have you wanted to love a book simply because? Because you should, or because you wanted to, or because you've enjoyed other offerings from the novelist? That's how I felt upon beginning my time with The Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed. I wanted to love this book is my kind of novel -- deep with a richly woven narrative, complex and--okay, at times--maddening characters. It's a story with soul. I should have loved this book, and I did love it, but then...

Things We Set on Fire begins with a
Dec 03, 2013 Renee rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I often wonder what compels one to finish a particular mediocre book but not other equally mediocre books? There have been books in the past that I started, and just gave up on. This was such a book that I thought I would stop, but ended up finishing. Maybe because it was easy to read?

First, the pros (because it wasn't ALL bad)

1. The author clearly has experience with migraines. I know this is strange, but the descriptions of what it's like to have one were spot on. And this wasn't even an integ
Family secrets..everyone has them. And the family in this story is no different. There is a family reunion of sorts about to happen. It's not a happy one. Vivvie has spent most of the past couple decades dealing with a toxic secret. And her chickens are coming home to roost.
Vivvie, her daughters and grand-daughters. One secret and three generations of heart ache. But hope and forgiveness is sometimes where it is least expected. This isn't a book that has the usual tie it up in a bow happy endi
Larry Hoffer
Nov 16, 2013 Larry Hoffer rated it really liked it
I'd rate this 4.5, maybe even 4.75 stars.

Old tensions, hurts, and unresolved arguments between family members are never fun to actually experience, but they're fodder for a treasure trove of fantastic books, movies, television shows, and plays. Deborah Reed's new novel, Things We Set on Fire, is an exquisitely rendered story about the hurts we don't forget and what they drive us to do, as well as the things we think we understand and the truths we rarely do.

When a tragedy reunites Vivvie with bo
At first I loved this book, with just the right emotional intensity and interesting characters. But somehow it just never went anywhere for me after that. The story about a mom with two adult daughters who are both, in varying degrees, estranged from her, was one that I thought would really pull me in, but the characters were never really given enough depth to engage me very much. At the same time, this author does have good writing skills, good at descriptive detail, and should have been able t ...more
Nov 11, 2013 Lisa rated it really liked it
This book was free from Amazon, so I decided to give it a try. Everyone, I think, has family member(s) they need to give another chance to reconnect. To put aside hostilities and barriers. I wanted to see what this book had to say.

The story starts a bit off-putting. I really thought about quitting right after the prologue. But I decided it had to get better, at least towards the end, and I continued to read. By about chapter 10 I was really into the story and did not want to put the book down. W
I like how this story ended. It was atypical, and yet very realistic. Elin and Neal did not end up together, as I had expected, and yet they were both on their way to resolving their individual issues.

The central theme of the story is not so much about ALS but on how major roadblocks such as a debilitating or life-threatening disease can change the course of the lives of each family member. It was written with a very lyrical prose, that is not so much to my taste, but it surely painted the drama
Nov 16, 2013 Debbie rated it really liked it
I have to say that this book was not what I expected. The prologue caused me to stop and think. I wasn't sure that I wanted to read yet another book about the horrors family members can inflict on one another. But the book was free, and my first book from the new Kindle First program, so I read on, wanting to give it a fair shot.

There's no horror story. There is plenty of despair and anguish, but none of it results from evil intentions. There is an imperfect family with terrible problems, fractu
Sam Sattler
Jan 03, 2014 Sam Sattler rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-novel
Deborah Reed’s Things We Set on Fire is all about family secrets and the potential that these secrets have to destroy a family over time. It tells the story of the Fentons, mother and two daughters, a little family that learns the hard way how easily it can be destroyed when everyone refuses to talk about the secret they all know but are afraid to openly examine.

The girls, Elin and Kate, lose their father suddenly. One moment he is there and the family is thriving, the next he is gone, victim of
Elliot Little
Oct 23, 2015 Elliot Little rated it really liked it
For such a quick read, Things We Set On Fire carries an enormous emotional weight. Reed's prose is quietly beautiful and poetic. Reed isn't a minimalist, but her unraveling of this family and their secrets is skillfully hidden between the lines. Without giving spoilers, some parts of the book seem a little unrealistic; however, the family dynamics and relationships between mother and daughters and sisters are painfully real and relatable. This is a complex, multi-layered story with realistic, th ...more
This might be a four star book...but it was just such a mismatch from my current emotional state that I found myself slogging through it at times going, good god this is depressing.

It falls solidly into the genre of "shattered dysfunctional family comes together for an event; so do they rip into one another or heal old wounds?". Generally I like this genre, but this one was just too much female energy at times, too wordy, and not edgy enough. You never got that truly satisfying throw-down of eve
Margaret Madden
Feb 22, 2014 Margaret Madden rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.........

Vivvie is woken in the middle of the night by a phone call from local police, asking her to come and collect her two grandaughters. Her youngest daughter, Kate, is in the hospital and there is no one else to mind the little girls. Vivvie is no stranger to heartbreak as we discover early on in this book. She is a widow, with two estranged daughters and now is landed with two young girls she barely knows and she cont
Lolly K Dandeneau
Feb 05, 2014 Lolly K Dandeneau rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fragile secret that lays dormant in the blood will force two daughters back into their damaged mother's life. Vivie's daughters, Kate and Elin, are estranged from each other and distant with their mother after the choices each made drove them apart. Both of Vivie's grown daughters are trapped by some unnamed memory related to the day their father was mysteriously shot to death, a memory that haunts them with questions they don't want to ask. Elin is living on the other side of the country, far ...more
Darcia Helle
Nov 14, 2013 Darcia Helle rated it really liked it
I finished this book two days ago and I'm still not quite sure how I feel about it. The writing itself is beautiful. Deborah Reed captures all the little details that bring a scene to life. I felt the sticky heat and heard the cicadas chirping. I saw each movement playing out in my mind.

From the first page, we're brought into the midst of family dysfunction. The emotions are deep, dark and compelling. But what makes this story poignant also makes it incredibly hard to read. By midway through, I
Jan 12, 2014 Sierra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel centers around a family that is brought together under tragic circumstances after years of avoiding each other and being scattered across the country. The ensuing action entails the way the family deals with the aftermath and examines relationships that remain in the wake of tragedy.

This book was great but there were a few things that could have been better. To begin with, the characters weren't all that interesting and were pretty flat. I was disappointed with the lack of strong rel
Oct 05, 2015 Vivian rated it really liked it
"Is waiting until our love no longer resembles itself going to serve some higher good?" Vivvien had to do what she had to do. That, or have it done to her. There were no two ways around it. Now she finds herself facing a similar situation. After so many years -Payback. "But not every kind of love called for action. Some demanded one to stay put."
~ struggle, family and forgiveness. All intertwined. Because they do, after all.
Feb 07, 2016 Cheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Deborah Reed, you're very good!

This was excellent. There was poetry in the language and the characters were believable and well defined. You believe in these people and applaud the finish as you know that all are where they should be.
Lisa Holliday
Sep 13, 2015 Lisa Holliday rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This woman is such an exquisite writer. Sentence after sentence that were as delicious as this moment is, sitting in my cabin by a fire in the blue ridge mountains, grieving the the thought of ever leaving, and the turning of the final page of this book.
Jan 13, 2014 Larry rated it it was amazing
A story of three generations of women and girls, so richly told that it drew me in like few novels do: I felt I was sitting inside the living room while real live people fought and cried and played around me.

A 30-year-old murder triggers a series of misunderstandings which lead to lifelong resentments and regret, until a light is shed on its motivation and past events turn out to be not what they seem. While it's essentially a family drama, Reed achieves a depth and complexity of emotion that ne
Nov 26, 2013 Jennie rated it really liked it
Excellent. And beautifully written. When reading the description of this book I thought, "Meh. Just another book about poor, southern rednecks and the torturous pain of an abusive, redneck childhood. Meh." However, it was offered to me for free under the new Amazon Preview program, and so I began. It is not about an abusive, redneck childhood. The story is much cleverer than that. It has quite the plot and is quite deep in the humanity that it explores. I am quite impressed with the author and w ...more
Sandra Nachlinger
Dec 26, 2013 Sandra Nachlinger rated it it was amazing
Some stories are fun to read or have a compelling plot, but they’re similar to others and forgotten. That is not the case with THINGS WE SET ON FIRE. From the opening chapter the author made me wonder - If Vivvie loved her husband, why would she do such a horrible thing? The effects of her action, both on herself and on her two daughters, are brought to light after Vivvie receives a late-night call from the police saying, "There's been an accident, ma'am."

This is not a cheery, feel-good tale, b
Nov 20, 2013 K~Terror rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book but it absolutely sucked me in from the start. The characters were interesting but not necessarily people I felt drawn too... But they were so real - flaws and all. The more I read, the more I liked the mom and her daughters - and the more my husband had to pry the book from my hands. Definitely a pleasant surprise and so glad I read it. If there were half stars, I would have rated a 4.5.. If it didn't leave me so sad in parts, I may have rated higher. ...more
Laurie Davis
Apr 27, 2014 Laurie Davis rated it liked it
I have no idea how I ended up with this book, but it was on my Kindle and I needed something to read, so I went ahead and read it. It was mostly mediocre, but kept me engaged. There was a little bit of mystery, but I figured out what was going on before it was revealed, and it wasn't quite emotionally satisfying as it resolved. The characters were well-written, as far as they went, but they were all people running from themselves and their own stories; they didn't seem to know themselves, so it ...more
Jan 03, 2016 Howard rated it liked it
Spoiler alert: this description gives away much of the plot.

Vivvie, wife and mother of two young daughters kills her husband in the first few pages and the three women have to deal with all that means as the years unfold. For daughter Elin, "getting rid of her past had been her strong suit, a mindful hobby for which she had a knack, going all the way back to those early years, kids asking Elin and Kate what it was like growing up without a dad." [p80].

Kate, who has two daughters of her own, was
Rachel Wallace
story of family dysfunction and a lot of bad choice

Kate and Elin are sisters who mostly hate each other but at times try to forge some semblance of a relationship. Top it off with having an emotionally unavailable mom and a father who died way too young and you end up with an unhappy, estranged family.

The plot was good. I loved that the author wasn't trite enough to see up a perfect little ending, although the book ended exactly as it should have. There were many sad parts in the book, but ther
Jul 09, 2014 Dale rated it liked it
I suppose all families have secrets and unresolved grudges, and such is the case with widowed Vivvie and her daughters Kate and Elin. As the story unfolds the outline of the gulf between the sisters becomes visible, as does the singular event that hangs over all their heads. The daughters are at the stages in their lives when, as happened with their mothers, things just go wrong, and there difficulties bring them together for reckoning with things past.

That all works well and is most plausible.
Francene Carroll
Jun 25, 2014 Francene Carroll rated it liked it

A well-written book about a family torn apart by a secret. The mother, Vivvie, makes a terrible mistake when she misguidedly tries to protect her two daughters from their father's illness. Although Vivvie thinks she's acting selflessly I believe that ultimately it was her own refusal to deal with the harsh reality of a degenerative illness that is behind her violent act. She burns all the photos of her husband because she can't bear to remember her loss and shuts down emotionally. Her
Sonja Yoerg
Mar 05, 2014 Sonja Yoerg rated it it was amazing
The writing in this book is exceptional. Reed's prose sings on every page and took my breath away in places. The story is about a Vivvie, her daughters and her granddaughters. In the opening scene Vivvie intentionally shoots her husband. The reason for her action, and the consequences of it, form the basis for the estrangement of the characters. As the histories and secrets unfold, we come to understand the power and limitations of forgiveness and its flip side, regret. I adored this story.
Lolly K Dandeneau
Feb 05, 2014 Lolly K Dandeneau rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fragile secret that lays dormant in the blood will force two daughters back into their damaged mother's life. Vivie's daughters, Kate and Elin, are estranged from each other and distant with their mother after the choices each made drove them apart. Both of Vivie's grown daughters are trapped by some unnamed memory related to the day their father was mysteriously shot to death, a memory that haunts them with questions they don't want to ask. Elin is living on the other side of the country, far ...more
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Deborah Reed is the author of the forthcoming novel, Olivay, to be published July 7th, 2015. She is also the author of novel, Things We Set On Fire. Tim O' Brien, winner of the National Book Award and author of The Things They Carried, had this to say about her work: "What a finely made, complex, and wholly engrossing novel this is. The people who inhabit Things We Set on Fire seem to be squeezed ...more
More about Deborah Reed...

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“Knowing how to make a life mean something, to wring out its worth when it was right there in one’s hands instead of just wishing about it afterward, or imagining how it could have been, or should have been, different.” 1 likes
“understanding, even then, that the moment had meant something, that the world could change in an instant, and she needed to be mindful of where she was, to live with intention, to always recognize the deliberateness of love.” 1 likes
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