“The Stars Are Fire” by Anita Shreve is based on the Great Fires of Maine in the late 40’s. As wild fires rage just miles from my home, this novel resonates like a bomb.
I live in Cape Coral, Florida. Right now in Naples, Florida, there are two wild fires raging out of control just beyond city limits. It’s scary. Seeing the black plumes of smoke spiral high into the skies over Naples on the news makes one realize that nowhere is safe from fire.
Grace is an unassuming housewife living in a small coastal town in Maine. The year is 1947. She and her husband Gene have two small children, one just an infant. All is not cozy in Grace’s home. The children are loved by both parents, and they are well taken care of. But Gene, Grace’s husband, is scared from the war. Their love life is brutal and one-sided. And after Gene’s mother dies suddenly of breast cancer he goes even more inside himself. If not for Grace’s best friend Rosie who lives just across the street she would pull her hair out.
After a summer filled with drought and heat, the fall brings fires to the state. And as they close in we can’t help but wonder why the whole town was not evacuated. And then it was, but it was all too little too late. As Grace prepares the children for bed, she notices something in the air. The wind has changed. She immediately thinks, “We’re saved.” And so do all the other members of the small town. And then they’re awakened in the night to sounds of a bull horn telling them all to get out of their homes. Grace sees nothing but fire in the treetops outside her window. She bundles the two children up and runs toward the sea. She’s not alone. A herd of terrified people and children are all running as swiftly as their legs will carry them. All with the wall of fire on their heels, literally. What does a woman with two children do to escape death by fire? Go into the sea? Disappear into thin air? It is a harrowing scene. One that will stay with you for the rest of your life. And one that will compel you to turn those pages as fast as you can.
Of course some of you may wonder where Gene is. Gene left early to help build a fire wall, but he’s not returned yet….
So, there, I’ve set the tone for this commanding novel. It’s based on true history. I love that about it.
Some Anita Shreve books I like more than others. FORTUNE’S ROCK is my very favorite. Of course I like THE PILOT’S WIFE. THE STARS ARE FIRE is right up there.