Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Fireman's Wife by Jack Riggs

Sooooo, I learned something from the Read-a-thon. I learned that I miss reading one book at a time, just one so I can be caught up in just it instead of spreading my attention too thin trying to be engrossed in a few at a time. So, it's back to one book at a time for me, and I like it, but we'll see how long it lasts. Somehow it feels like you're getting more read when you're reading more than one book at a time, though I'm starting to see that, for me, that might not be true.

Anyhow, that's enough with the personal interlude. I'm still wildly behind on my reviewing. Well, for me, I mean. So, on with the show!

Cassie and Peck Johnson's marriage is falling apart. In fact, it's probably been falling apart since it began when Cassie became pregnant with their daughter Kelly during one lovedrunk summer at the beach. Disowned by her Baptist minister father, Cassie is forced to leave the mountain home she loves and her hopes of a college education to move to the sweltering South Carolina low country. There she all but loses her identity in the everyday struggles of raising a daughter and trying to love a fire chief husband who seems to be more involved with his crew than his family. Cassie isn't sure what she wants from life, but she knows that to find out, she'll have to escape strong, steady Peck and his beloved low country, the ties of which she can always feel tight around her.

Sure that this time, really, is the time she is leaving for good, Cassie sets off for the mountains with Kelly and Peck's friend Clay determined to escape from the life that has bound her for so long. Soon, though, she learns that getting away isn't so simple as simply packing her things and driving away. When unexpected events occur, Cassie finds that the new life she's pursuing isn't quite what she'd imagined and maybe not what she's searching for at all.

Told in chapters alternating between Peck and Cassie's perspectives, The Fireman's Wife is a story of a marriage collapsing under the weight of its own past. At the start, the novel is less than captivating. Its choppy, belabored beginning chapters populated by characters who come off as selfish and none too likeable make for rough going. Riggs' beginning is a bit forced and a little too obvious in the telling, and his two main characters don't exactly leap off the page. Luckily, however, as the story continues, it shakes off many of its problems. By the midpoint of the book, Cassie and Peck are more genuinely fleshed out and readers are more involved in their story and their problems. The alternating viewpoints manage to successfully present both sides of an argument that the two never really manage to have. Even the mountains and the low country come to life so that readers can share in the characters' deep love for the essence of their respective homes. Ultimately, readers can't help but pull for the two to heal the damage of their shared past and find a way to reconcile their differences.

The Fireman's Wife is not the perfect novel, but if you can look past some of its ticks (a clunky first fifty pages, an occasional awkwardness in the first person present tense narration, and perhaps an irritating overuse of the expression "pissed off"), it is a sweet story that reminds us both that love isn't always easy, but is worth it, and how sometimes to love another, we first need to know and love ourselves.

(This is a review copy compliments of Random House via LibraryThing Early Reviewers.)


  1. You caught my attention when you mentioned the low country - it's a great place for a book to be set. I've never been able to read more than one book at a time.

  2. I discovered the same thing a while back. I was reading multiple books at a time, & my end-of-year total reflected that. But I wasn't able to fully enjoy the books, able to fully immerse myself in them. So I'm (generally) a 1-book gal now, too.

  3. I can only read one book at a time myself. I would get too mixed up. I'm not sure if this book sounds like one I would like or not.

  4. I've noticed I really don't enjoy books about contemporary marriages-what does that say about me?! lol I usually read four books at once, but only 2 fic, and they have to be in different genres. :)

  5. It was extremely interesting for me to read this blog. Thank you for it. I like such themes and anything connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more on that blog soon.

  6. I am one of those people who cannot read more than one book at a time. I don't think I have the time management skills to do so at all! It is difficult for me to follow more than one plot at a time, I think. Plus- I only read one or two books a week, so I'm not that fast-paced, anyway.