The Stars Are Fire: Book summary and reviews of The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve

The Stars Are Fire

by Anita Shreve

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve X
The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve
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Book Summary

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Weight of Water and The Pilot's Wife (an Oprah's Book Club selection): an exquisitely suspenseful new novel about an extraordinary young woman tested by a catastrophic event and its devastating aftermath - based on the true story of the largest fire in Maine's history.

In October 1947, after a summer-long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast from Bar Harbor to Kittery and are soon racing out of control from town to village. Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her husband, Gene, joins the volunteer firefighters. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie's two young children, Grace watches helplessly as their houses burn to the ground, the flames finally forcing them all into the ocean as a last resort. The women spend the night frantically protecting their children, and in the morning find their lives forever changed: homeless, penniless, awaiting news of their husbands' fate, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists.

In the midst of this devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms - joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain - and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens - and Grace's bravery is tested as never before.

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Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Based on the harrowing true story of the largest fire to ravage the coast of Maine, this is sure to be a best seller. Shreve's prose mirrors the action of the fire , with popping embers of action, licks of blazing rage, and the slow burn of lyrical character development. Absolutely stunning." - Library Journal

"The back stories of the main characters are so sketchy that their actions seem unmotivated and arbitrary. Formulaic plot aside, worth reading for the period detail and the evocative prose." - Kirkus

"Characterizations, however, are less convincing; Gene's cruelty to Grace seems disproportionate to its purported rationale, and the novel's final pages feel implausible and anachronistic, even given Grace's newfound self-reliance. Nevertheless, many readers will be buoyed by Grace's strength and resourcefulness and will be eager to debate the ethical decisions she makes as she seizes her independence." - Publishers Weekly

This information about The Stars Are Fire was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Cathryn Conroy

It's Really, Really Good! A Fast and Captivating Read
The plot premise of this book is truly the stuff of nightmares and, tragically, real news headlines: What if a ravaging, uncontrollable wildfire burned not only everything you own, but also destroyed your entire town?

It is 1947. Gene and Grace Holland live a simple life in a simple house in Hunts Beach on the coast of Maine. Her mother is present but distant, and her mother-in-law despises her. Claire is two, Tom is nine months old, and Grace is pregnant. Their marriage is as brittle and dry as the drought that shrouds this idyllic land by the sea. When a wildfire breaks out up and down the coast of Maine, Gene and most of the other men band together to try to fight it. Left alone, Grace does something truly extraordinary to save her life, her children's lives and those of her best friend and her kids, who live next door. But when the fire is finally snuffed out, there is nothing left—nothing!—and Gene is missing. But just as fire does in nature, using this catastrophic force for rebirth and eventual regrowth, Grace musters all her inner strength and courage to also rebuild the shards of her life. And then everything comes crashing in again.

This is a story about the untapped strength and power of one woman's spirit.

The book is a fast and captivating read that is so much more than mere plot. Author Anita Shreve has created characters who will reach into your soul. The descriptions are so vivid and bold that I could almost feel the heat of the flames and the chill of the ocean. Best of all, the twists and turns of the story, especially at the end, are how really good books are written.

Sadly, Anita Shreve died on March 29, 2018, but I will always be in awe of the legacy she has left us.

R. Buxton

Excellent Book
I could not put this book down. It was very moving and so well written that I could easily visualize everything that was going on. A must read!

Linda J. (Ballwin, MO)

A Fire in the Heart
Once again, Anita Shreve, one of my favorite authors, has penned a novel that snares the reader's interest from the first sentence.
It is the summer of 1947 and Maine is suffering through an unbearable drought. The spring rains have long since dried up and the sun parches the state. Even the coastal towns have no relief save the slight ocean breezes.
Grace Holland is 24 with two children under the age of two, and is suffering through a drought of her own in her marriage.
She married Gene, thinking life would be wonderful. It hasn't turned out that way. She performs her wifely duties of washing, ironing, and cooking, but the occasional "nightly duties" are unsatisfying, nothing like her vivacious friend and neighbor, Rosie, describes in her relationship with her husband Tim.
After one "nightly duty," Grace finds herself pregnant, and realizes she is truly trapped.
Then, the unthinkable happens. A fire starts miles from town, and all the men, including Rick and Tim leave to build fire breaks.
Word comes that the fire is spreading, and Grace waits for Gene to come for them, but he never does.
The fire overtakes the town. Grace and her children along with Rosie and her children run to the sea, thinking that is their only salvation, and cover themselves with soaked blankets.
When rescuers finally find them, Grace is deathly ill, but she has saved her children. When she finally regains consciousness, Gene is still missing, their house is gone with all their possessions, and her baby is stillborn.
Tim comes back to Rosie, but does not know what happened to Gene. They leave the destroyed town and travel to Nova Scotia to be with her parents.
Penniless, with two children and her mother, Grace goes to the only place she knows for shelter – her deceased mother-in-law's coastal mansion which, she assumes, is now Gene's since his mother died.
But it is not unoccupied. Walking into the house, she hears a beautiful melody being played on the piano.
Aiden, an Irish pianist, his tour cut short by the fire, has been living in the deserted mansion until he finds another job.
With Aiden, Grace finally finds the joy that had been missing in her life, but when he finds a job, he leaves, promising to see her again.
By this time, Grace has gotten a job she likes, a car, and is discovering all the freedoms she had never known.
Then, her life is turned upside down again, and she has to summon all the strengths that she has learned through her previous experience to cope with this unexpected turn of events.
Shreve has written a novel of love, loss, and triumph in the face of a force that threatens to tear away all that Grace has gained.
She gets inside Grace's head to the point where readers can identify with her struggles, her fear, and her triumphs.
I found it to be a quick read, because I couldn't put it down.

Andrea S. (Lafayette, IN)

Good book
I requested this story of the aftermath of catastrophic forest fires in Maine in 1947 because we had visited and been charmed by the Maine coast last fall. I was therefore familiar with many of the locations mentioned in the book. I don't know if the plot is based on an actual person's experience or not. But the story uses much historical detail to tell the story of Grace and her family and how they survived the fires. The fires are a metaphor for change in Grace's life as well. I enjoyed this book very much. I had never read anything by Anita Shreve before. I picked this book because of its setting, but I found that I appreciated Shreve's writing style. I was very interested in the book and read it as quickly as my schedule would allow.
Book clubs would find much to discuss in this book about Grace and her life before and after the fire.

Christine B. (Scottsdale, AZ)

The Stars Are Fire
I absolutely loved this book. Ms. Shreve's description of the fire was so intense and believable I felt like I was living it with Grace and her children. The resilience of Grace is unbelievable. Her determination to make a new life for herself and her children is unstoppable. This gritty and poignant novel is filled with so much hope, love, despair and finally redemption. Understanding Grace's husband Gene and their relationship or non-relationship was difficult. I wish there had been more background about Gene and his mother. However, I think ultimately this is Grace's story and one to savor.

Janice A. (Houston, TX)

Anita Shreve The stars are fire
Shreve has produced another well written and descriptive novel. This story shows the strength of a woman who lost herself and by surviving a tragedy found the strength she always owned. Grace experiences her true love as well as her Achilles heel and must decide between the expectations of her generation or her own happiness.

...34 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Anita Shreve Author Biography

Anita Shreve grew up in Dedham, Massachusetts. Her approimately 20 novels include The Pilot's Wife, The Weight of Water, Eden Close, Strange Fits of Passion, Where or When, and Resistance.

Anita Shreve began writing fiction while working as a high school teacher after graduating from Tufts University. Although one of her first published stories, "Past the Island, Drifting," was awarded an O. Henry Prize in 1975, Shreve felt she couldn't make a living as a fiction writer so she became a journalist. She traveled to Africa and spent three years in Kenya, writing articles that appeared in magazines such as Quest, US, and Newsweek. Back in the United States, she turned to raising her children and writing freelance articles for magazines. Shreve later expanded two of these ...

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Link to Anita Shreve's Website

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