Thursday, December 4, 2008

Review: The Fireman's Wife

Summary: It’s June 1970. As the low country of South Carolina burns in a seven-month drought, Cassie Johnson longs for escape: both from her husband, Peck, the town’s newly promoted fire chief, who seems more interested in saving everyone else’s life than in living his own, and from the low country marshes where Cassie has never quite felt at home. But as Peck and Cassie drift apart, their teenage daughter, Kelly, finds herself torn between her parents and her desperate need for normalcy. It will take a tumultuous journey back to the North Carolina mountains before Cassie can begin to understand the complicated love that resides, unrecognized, deep in her heart.

From a masterly voice in Southern fiction, The Fireman’s Wife is an emotionally bare and moving novel about one woman’s struggle to do what’s right–for her family, for her love, and for herself. -- Ballantine Books

I was pretty excited when I was selected to read THE FIREMAN'S WIFE by Jack Riggs as part of Library Thing's Early Reviewer Program. I am usually drawn to novels that take place in the South, and I thought this one sounded particularly good. While I ultimately did enjoy this novel, I have to admit that it took me at least 100 pages or so before I really got into the story. Once I did get into it though, I definitely was hooked.

I realize that I don't have to love the characters in a novel to make it an enjoyable read, but I have to admit that when I can relate to them, I seem to like the book a little more. I think I had some problems with this story because I just didn't like Cassie for the better part of the book. Instead of feeling any sympathy towards her, I just kept getting more and more frustrated with her behavior, especially as it related to her teenage daughter. (And, I really had a hard time with her boyfriend too.) It wasn't until the end of the novel that she somewhat redeemed herself in my eyes. As I read her chapters, I kept telling myself that she had been through a lot in her life and had suffered many disappointments; but I still found myself wanting her to be less bitter and more grateful.

On the other hand, I really did like the character of Peck, Cassie's husband -- maybe that's another reason why I was so upset with Cassie. It's not that I didn't think Peck was flawed because he definitely used his job as a way to escape; it's just that he seemed to really love his wife and daughter. While both Cassie and Peck always seemed to escape rather than deal with their issues, for some reason I was more tolerant of Peck.

I have never read a novel by Jack Riggs before, but I wouldn't hesitate to read another one. I enjoyed how he wrote the chapters from both Cassie and Peck's viewpoints. I thought this style provided the reader with some insight into both of the characters. In addition, I thought he did a wonderful job of describing both the coastal and mountain parts of South Carolina. His vivid descriptions were beautiful and I loved how he tied the differences in the locations with the differences in his characters. When he talked about the stifling heat and humidity of the coastal areas, I could almost feel it -- the descriptions were that good. I also thought his chapters about the fires and the firefighters were amazingly realistic. Mr. Riggs' research on firefighting definitely showed through in these sections. If you'd like to learn more about Mr. Riggs and this book, take a look at this very interesting interview.

I do think that many readers will really enjoy THE FIREMAN'S WIFE; and the novel would be a terrific book to discuss. I have a feeling that many people will find both the story and the characters to be very real. There are so many thought-provoking issues including marriage, adultery, responsibility, parent-child relationships, and being true to one's self. THE FIREMAN'S WIFE will be available on December 30th.


Anonymous said...

This book looks interesting to me because I live in the upstate of South Carolina and have vacationed in the lowcountry for years.

Jill said...

I love Southern fiction...thanks for putting this one on my radar!

Anna said...

Great review! This one sounds interesting.

Diary of an Eccentric

Darlene said...

Great review Julie. For me, I like books much more when I can relate in some way to the characters or be drawn into them. Otherwise the book seems to fall flat. It may be good but not as great as it could have been.

Elizabeth said...

Great review, it's on my list!


Andrea said...

I also like reading books that take place in the South. This sounds interesting because I've lived in the SC low country and now live in NC, not far from the mountains.

I know what you mean about relating to the characters though. I'm the same way when I read. I'll keep reading even if I don't like the main character much, but it's just not as enjoyable.