Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Book of Fire by Christy Lefteri

Book of Fire
by Christy Lefteri
336 pages
Published January 2024 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary: 
In present-day Greece, deep in an ancient forest, lives a family: Irini, a musician, who teaches children to read and play music; her husband, Tasso, who paints pictures of the forest, his greatest muse; and Chara, their young daughter, whose name means joy. On the fateful day that will forever alter the trajectory of their lives, flames chase fleeing birds across the sky. The wildfire that will consume their home, and their lives as they know it, races toward them. 

Months later, as the village tries to rebuild, Irini stumbles upon the man who started the fire, a land speculator who had intended only a small, controlled burn to clear forestland to build on but instead ignited a catastrophe. He is dying, although the cause is unclear, and in her anger at all he took from them, Irini makes a split-second decision that will haunt her. 

As the local police investigate the suspicious death, Tasso mourns his father, who has not been seen since before the fire. Tasso’s hands were burnt in the flames, leaving him unable to paint, and he struggles to cope with the overwhelming loss of his artistic voice and his beloved forest. Only his young daughter, who wants to repair the damage that’s been done, gives him hope for the future.

My Thoughts: 

I meant to get this written sooner, while the book was still fresh in my mind. Unfortunately, that didn't happen; and, since Netgalley won't let me highlight any more, it's hard to go back and grab specifics or refresh my memory. These are the highlights of what I recall:
  • Lefteri utilizes dual storylines here, one first-person account of the family after the fire, the other Irini's third-person recounting of the fire and its immediate aftermath. I liked the concept but, as with so many dual storyline novels, one feels more compelling than the other. 
  • The parts describing the spread of the fire and Irini's and Chara's time in the water waiting for rescue are truly frightening. The fear, the exhaustion, the fight to survive are all vividly portrayed. 
  • The present day storyline often felt repetitive; I think things could have been cleaned up to make that storyline tighter. 
  • I always appreciate a novel where the ending is not a forgone conclusion. I did like the way this one ended, with not everything tied up neatly. 
  • I appreciated that the bad guy was given some balance. 
  • I really enjoyed learning some history of Greece, reading about Irini's family's immigrant experience, spending some time with the locals, and the way Lefteri used climate change to craft the rest of the story. 

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