One of these days I am going to review a book that did not receive five stars from me. At least once I am going to have some not-so-nice things to say about a book. Today is not that day. I am very lucky that the last three books I have read have all been 5-star reads for me because I am a harsh book critic. So here is another book that you must read, according to me.
This book came to me by chance. I was searching for local author events happening in the next month, and I came across Katherine Center’s event scheduled for two days later. I had not read any of her books yet, but I had heard so many good things about her as an author. That is how I ended up reading this entire book in just over 24 hours. In my humble opinion, any book that you can and want to read that quickly is a good book.
You meet the main character, firefighter Cassie Hanwell, right away. It is within the first chapter that you realize what a strong female she is and will continue to be. She becomes quite entangled in a very public scene that changes the trajectory of her life immensely within the first two chapters. Very quickly you see how resiliently she finds a new way for herself. There is no crying in firefighting.
This book is written in first person, which I don’t typically like. First person point of view is not forgiving when the narrator has annoying habits or is just not likable. I don’t want to be inside the mind of an irritating person, plain and simple. That is not Cassie; I never find her irritating, which is a good thing considering the point of view never changes.
Here is how I felt about Cassie as a character: she was damaged during adolescence and her emotional intelligence was stunted then and there. I’m not a psychologist, but that is how I saw it. For a person who has emotional maturity, this can be quite frustrating at times throughout the book. The frustration was only compounded when I was reading it directly from her point of view only. In the case of this book that frustration was necessary in appreciating the payoff at the end of the story. Sure, I rolled my eyes at some of the things the narrator said/did, but Cassie also ended the story with tremendous growth. With every single page, I was cheering for Cassie. Alongside every frustration, I was encouraging her. She did bothersome things, but she was not an unreliable narrator and I never found myself disliking her. She is like your children, if you have any; they do dumb things based on their lack of of knowledge of the world but we still love them through it all. Don’t misunderstand and think that Cassie was childish; she definitely was not.
The climax of the story came towards the end, so I thought I was going to get away without any major, glaring conflict. The story was so engaging that I think I would have been happy-ish without the little valley in the final 70 pages. I would have given Things You Save in a Fire four stars based off the first 250 pages because it was captivating and sweet. Then the well-timed conflict arises, and I finished the book giving it a full five stars. You will just have to read it to find out why the last 70 pages pushed it over the edge for me.
I don’t read chick-lit much because I get tired of the same tropes and characters. This book was very different than any romance I’ve read before. Cassie breaks every mold of how you would expect a female lead in a romance to be. She doesn’t want a man, and frankly the reader knows that she doesn’t need one. You’re only rooting for the boy in the book because he makes her happy, not because she would be any less of a hero without him. How many serious chick-lit books have you read where the main female narrator is a firefighter? Not only that, but the firefighting aspect is very interestingly woven throughout the story. It’s not just a kitschy setting that Katherine is writing about, it’s a way of life that she is knowledgeable about.
“And for my hilarious and good-hearted volunteer firefighter husband, Gordon. This book would be about ten pages long without his help. He told me a hundred hilarious and heartbreaking firefighting stories, walked me through all his EMS skills, read draft after draft for accuracy…” (Book’s Acknowledgements)
Katherine Center was able to give readers a window into what life is like for firefighters without making it seem glamorous nor over our heads. She perfectly brought to life a new kind of character and setting.
After finishing this book, I have added several other novels by Katherine Center to my list, and I hope you will too. Don’t be afraid to pick this book up if you tend to like a story with depth. The love story was sweet and all, but this novel had depth that contemporary romances sometimes lack. You can purchase Things You Save in a Fire on Amazon and support this amazing author. Let me know in the comments below if you have read this book, want to read this book, or even enjoy chick-lit.