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Things We Set On Fire

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  4,939 ratings  ·  467 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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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
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
Larry Hoffer
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
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
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
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
Sam Sattler
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
Margaret Madden
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
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
Lolly LKH
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
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
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
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
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
Kristin ~ Experiment in Terror Junkie
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
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
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
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

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
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 LKH
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
I really couldn't understand the title of this book at first, expecting a story quite different from what I thought. Now that I've read it, I can see it alot better. It will keep you turning pages, and going from laughing to tears and other assorted emotions along the way. A really good read, that makes you think. I'm glad I read it, and hope to read Deborah's other books.

From Amazon:
A series of tragedies brings Vivvie's young grandchildren into her custody, and her two estranged daughters bac
In the summer of ice bucket challenges for ALS- here is a story that involves ALS and how it affects the family. The story is kind of depressing very defustional but I think also realistic!
I was drawn to this book initially by the intensity of the first scene, in which a woman intentionally shoots her husband, disguising the act as a hunting accident. (I'm not giving anything away by this. The last sentence of the second paragraph reads, "His [bright red] shoelaces were eye-catching, dizzying through her riflescope from fifty yards away.") What then kept me reading and enjoying the novel, at least to a certain degree, was the use of multiple perspectives. I wouldn't call the point ...more
The story literally starts off with a bang and it took a little while to figure out what happened and where it would go from there. A mother has raised two daughters alone after the death of her husband but the grief that surrounds them all pushes all of them apart rather than bringing them together. That changes when one of the daughters becomes deathly ill and her mother and sister have to work together for the sake of her two young daughters. So many bridges were burned as this family had bec ...more
*Tiny spoilers*

Character development is the most important thing to me when I read a book. A good character makes the difference between: "Oh, I read this novel that had a pretty good plot, but I can't remember the name of it" and "This book crawled inside of me and grew and grew until my bones splintered and it has haunted me ever since".

Although Reed's use of written word is unmatched by many budding authors these days and her subtle plot weaving lands softly yet surely upon us like falling s
I think this was a Kindle Daily Deal, since an earlier book of Reed's was on Amazon's list of best books of 2011. This was unlike anything I've read for a while; it's not a mystery, not SF or fantasy. It might even fall into that questionable category of "literary fiction."

The story starts with a life-changing scene from 20 or 30 years ago, then jumps to the present day family dynamics that formed, in large part, as a result of that one day. This is one of the most craftfully plotted and told st
Nov 06, 2013 Liz rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: lit-fic
Beautifully told story about mothers and sisters and daughters and all the ways we fail and save one another. Reed's settings and characters breathe from the page and nothing is neat or easily solved. Filled with love but always aware that love burns down as often as it builds, this is a short novel that lingers long in the mind and heart. Recommended.
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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...
Carry Yourself Back to Me Olivay Was nach dem Feuer bleibt

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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
“It was as much a memorial to them both as it was a reminder that loving someone, loving anyone, even those long gone, was of consequence, and not loving them was of consequence, too.” 1 likes
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