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Things You Save in a Fire


Things You Save in a Fire

From Katherine Center, the bestselling author of HOW TO WALK AWAY, comes a poignant and resonant novel about strength, family and learning to love. Populated with strong, believable characters, fresh and original side stories, and lots of heart, THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE is a gorgeous and inspiring book that will make readers eager for more from Center.

Cassie Hanwell is many things: a female firefighter, a self-defense instructor, a first-class prankster and someone who is terrified of love. Her mother, Diana, left her and her father on the night of her 16th birthday, and though she has flourished professionally since then, she has barred herself from any and all chances of love or closeness. Still, she is mostly happy: she loves her team of firefighters, has an uncanny ability to find calmness in any emergency, and is about to be honored with a major award for her work saving a school bus full of children.

Then the unthinkable happens: a man with whom Cassie shares a dark history is announced as the presenter for her award, and when she leans in for the plaque, he gropes her. Reacting with the fury of years of pent-up anger, Cassie pummels him in front of every important person in her Texan town. Faced with an impossible choice, she decides to accept termination and transfer to a different fire department, partially because something else has upended her life plans. Diana has gone blind in one eye and has asked Cassie to live with her for one year while she completes her therapy.

"...a poignant and resonant novel about strength, family and learning to love... Katherine Center is gifted beyond words, and her plots, characters and exquisite attention to detail make her a must-read author --- and a new auto-buy for me."

Now Cassie not only must leave her beloved fire squad and professional comfort, she has to move in with the person who hurt her most and changed her outlook on life, love and happiness forever. Even worse, Cassie’s new job will take her to a Boston-area firehouse, where the men are tough, old school and decidedly against a woman joining their team. Competent and smart Cassie is ready for anything they plan to throw her way, but with one exception: the handsome rookie starting the same day as her. Boyishly good-looking, kind and smart, Owen is the only thing that could put Cassie’s new life at risk, because as much as her fellow firefighters can't stand working with a woman, they would hate her even more if she acted like a woman.

As Cassie adapts to her new squad, she also must learn to accept her mother. When she finds out Diana's side of the story, it is harder to hold on to her anger --- but Cassie has never explained to her mother the other terrible thing that happened the night she left. With everything else going on, not only will Cassie have to forgive her mother and prove herself to her new squad, she must find the courage within herself to love again.

The book is full of emotional highs and lows, but I believe my favorite parts were about the brotherhood among the firefighters. Center clearly did her research, and the way she opens up the semi-private society and invites readers right into the firehouse is incredible. When I first picked up this book, I was definitely expecting to feel things and cry, but I never thought I would learn so much about firefighting, firefighters and firehouses. I loved that Center fleshed out these scenes so well and found myself giggling at the pranks more than a few times --- there are so many pranks.

THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE is a rare book. It is nearly flawless in its writing, and Center balances the emotional depth with just the right amount of lighthearted firefighter pranks and jokes that add some much-needed levity without distracting from the main themes. Cassie is the kind of character readers dream about: strong, brave, a little flawed and full of potential. She is truly someone you root for in every way, and I loved her journey both as a firefighter and as a daughter. Even Diana (who you start off hating) is given a full, emotional character arc. Center never lets her off the hook completely, but writes her with such compassion that she reminds readers that we are all just human --- and more than a little flawed.

If you missed HOW TO WALK AWAY, don’t make that same mistake with THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE. Katherine Center is gifted beyond words, and her plots, characters and exquisite attention to detail make her a must-read author --- and a new auto-buy for me.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on September 13, 2019

Things You Save in a Fire
by Katherine Center

  • Publication Date: July 14, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
  • ISBN-10: 1250622123
  • ISBN-13: 9781250622129