I think there's no reader, especially of women's fiction and historical fiction that hasn't heard of Anita Shreve Originally posted on This Chick Reads
I think there's no reader, especially of women's fiction and historical fiction that hasn't heard of Anita Shreve. She's a well known name and author of many brilliant books. The first book of her's I've read was The Pilot's Wife and it was kind of love at first sight moment for me. Naturally I was so excited to hear she's got a new book coming out and I couldn't wait to read it. While it's classic Anita Shreve that we know, I think this certainly is her best yet.
The book is based on real life events, a terrible fire that caught Maine in 1947. This dreadful event is the frame for the main story, a story of loss, hope, survival and new beginnings. The story is centered around Grace, a young woman in her early 20s, wife of Gene and mother of two young children under the age of 2. She's the pillar of the family, running errands, taking care of the house, making sure everyone is pleased and taken care of. However, her marriage is not the happiest. It takes her a lot of time to realize this. Gene is rude, secretive and treats her unkindly. She hardly sees him or makes love to him. For a woman of that age, naturally this is a problem. While her friend, Rosie is having the best marriage with loads of passion, it seems Grace will never get to have it. But she's not jealous, it's more like she's not even aware of what she's missing until she sees the life her friend, Rosie leads.
But one dreadful event, the fire that rages through Maine, a fire which will burn down her and many other houses, will be the event that will change her life forever. Gene is out to help out with the fire spreading and she's left alone to take care of her children, saving not only theirs but also the lives of Rosie and her kids. At such a difficult time she discovers her own strength and strong desire for survival. She's 5 months pregnant, unfortunately loses her kid. However, that doesn't stop her, she's got two little children to take care of.
Gene is missing and Grace moves in her deceased mother-in-laws house. And that's where everything starts really changing. Though she's got no time to mourn her lost child or house, Grace is certain she wants to move on.
I absolutely enjoyed this book! Many times I was close to tears, especially when the fire was raging and Grace was fighting for her life and the life of her kids. The strong mother's love was so well described, I even started imagining what I would do if I were in that horrible situation. What I loved the most is how Grace transforms, how she grows from the gullible 23 year old to strong, confident woman making some excellent choices.
The book delivers so many great messages, like the importance of understanding in a marriage, the need to rely on each other in times of a disaster or how one grows in most difficult of times. I love the fact Grace rose literally from her ashes, creating a new and better life than the one she had.
But the thing that I felt missing (and which is the reason I can't give it 5*) is the fact I wish I saw more of Gene's reasons for his behavior. I know there are a lot of mean people in the world, however I couldn't understand why he was treating Grace so badly or why she put up with that. I guess one of the reasons is that back in the 40s divorce was not an acceptable thing. Still, I wish I knew why Gene was so bitter, it would help me get a clearer picture of him as a character.
While there's some romance, it was gradually built and I absolutely love Ms Shreve's gentle approach thus showing a nice, American, family woman from the 40s.
Overall, this was truly an enjoyable read. It's short so I read it in about three hours and I absolutely loved the ending. Speaking of the ending, some things might be rushed by the ending but it all fit in perfectly. If you're looking for a great women's fiction/historical fiction to devour over the weekend, no need to look any further. Warm, emotional and carrying many strong messages, The Stars Are Fire is definitely a treat. ...more