Things You Save in a Fire

By Katharine Center

This about a 3-star book until the last 20%, which is about the time I had to change to the Kindle version because my audiobook was due back to the library. Cassie was a remarkable character. As the book opens, she is a 26-year-old woman who was abandoned by her mother 10 years earlier on the same day she endured a sexual assault. This had crippled her emotionally although the double trauma has led to her being an award-winning fireman and nothing less than spectacular at her job. She is forced to leave her progressive and modern fire team in Austin, Texas and take a position in an old-school Boston area firehouse. The Boston guys do not hold with women being firefighters, to put in mildly. She has to move in with her estranged mother who is ill, and plus she kind of loses her temper at an old enemy at a very public ceremony, so she really has little choice but to move.

I was afraid, at this point, that we were going to be put through the wringer of anger and frustration as we watched Cassie deal with prejudice and chauvinistic attitudes. But Cassie earns their respect pretty much right away, and she is not subjected to a lot of cruelty and harassment. There is a problem with one of the firefighters that starts over half-way through the book and she is not fully accepted as part of the team until the end. But I am glad I, the reader, was not subjected to a lot of unremitting angst and injustice. Also, humor is used pretty effectively throughout.

There is a romance with a fellow fireman which I was not all that invested in, unfortunately. Much of the book is devoted to Cassie coming to terms with her mother and learning to understand and forgive not only her mother but others, including herself. Also, she feels like she has to demonstrate her physical strength and mental toughness to her peers time and again. At times I found Cassie’s physical prowess and toughness towards others a bit grating and unrealistic. By the end of the book, in which she triumphs over everyone and everything, she is a “legend.” I felt like a folksong about her was imminent, so it is a little over the top.

The last 20% is pretty white-knuckle reading and her ultimate vindication from scandal and false accusations is pretty epic. It lifted a 3+star book up to 4. Though this might have been because I switched to reading instead of listening. I’m sure some readers will roll their eyes over the “girl needs man and babies to be happy” epilogue. But I chose to take the message that human love and understanding is what makes life worth living. It does include romantic love (afterall, this is kinda chick-lit) but love for family, friends, yourself, and your fellow man as well.

I even read a whole book on the psychology of post-traumatic growth, and how, in the wake of the terrible, traumatic, unfair, cruel, gaping wounds that life inflicts on us, we can become wiser and stronger than we were before. Am I wiser and stronger now? Without question. Even in the wake of it all. I’ve spent so much time wishing that what happened never happened. But it did. And the question I try to focus on is, What now?

**4 stars out of 5**

January 1, 2020

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