Sunday, November 15, 2015

ARC Review: Smoke by Catherine McKenzie

Publisher: Lake Union
Publishing Date: October 20th, 2015
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Pages: 370 pgs
ISBN: 9781503945654
Source: Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads:
From the internationally bestselling author Catherine McKenzie comes an evocative tale of two women navigating the secrets and lies at the heart of a wildfire threatening their town.

After a decade-long career combating wildfires, Elizabeth has traded in for a quieter life with her husband. Now she works as the local arson investigator in a beautiful, quaint town in the Rockies. But that tranquil life vanishes when she and her husband agree to divorce, and when a fire started in nearby Cooper Basin begins to spread rapidly. For Elizabeth, containing a raging wildfire is easier than accepting that her marriage has failed.

For Elizabeth’s ex-friend Mindy, who feels disconnected from her husband and teenage children, the fire represents a chance to find a new purpose: helping a man who lost his home to the blaze. But her faith is shattered by a shocking accusation.

As the encroaching inferno threatens the town’s residents, Elizabeth and Mindy must discover what will be lost in the fire, and what will be saved. 

My Review:

I have loved every Catherine McKenzie book that I have read. She definitely doesn't follow a formula when it comes to her writing and each book is distinct in premise and cast of characters. When I was contacted to review this book I couldn't resist and I was not disappointed. Smoke takes place in a mountain community after a long dry summer. Unfortunately a huge forest fire takes hold and Elizabeth, a resident of the community, is called in to investigate the origin of the fire. The novel flips back and forth between two different perspectives. One being Elizabeth and the other being Mindy, Elizabeth's ex-best friend, who is dealing with her disconnected teenage son.
This story is part mystery and part family drama. We are trying to figure out who set the fire and how it came about but we are also drawn into Elizabeth's relationship with her husband. The two are trying to navigate through some tough times and essentially they are trying to determine whether they should get divorced or not. Some of this is due to fertility issues. I will admit that this is part of the reason I really liked this book. As someone going through fertility issues I can tell you that it puts a tremendous strain on your personal relationships. It also causes you to question many things about yourself and where you see yourself in the future. It is a case of expectations not matching reality and this can be emotionally exhausting. I think that McKenzie was able to fully convey this through her protagonist's thoughts and actions in this novel. I tip my hat off to the author because it's not a topic that is often tackled. In fact, I recently went through my bookstore trying to find novels that deal with this very topic and I find it extremely difficult to find anything. I went as far as searching on Goodreads for lists of novels about fertility issues. This did not bring back many options. It is treated like a dirty little secret and I applaud McKenzie for bringing light to this.
I enjoyed the characters in the book but at times I found myself less interested in what Mindy was doing. I wish that I had seen a little more of her relationship with her son. I wanted to get into his head more than I wanted to get into Mindy's head. Elizabeth was my favorite because I could relate to her and I understood her motives. I understood her trying to push her husband away by asking for a divorce (not a spoiler- this literally happens in the first few pages). I could understand trying to find a balance between her passion for fire fighting and her love of her family.
Overall, I thought this was a well written novel that was hard for me to read at times. It's definitely worth a read.

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