“There isn’t anything in the world that hurts like a burn.” No one knows the pain of a fire more than the women of the Keegan/O’Reilly clan. Kathleen Donohoe’s stunning debut novel brings to life seven unsentimental, wry, and evocative portraits of women from a family of firefighters. When we meet Norah — the first member of her family to move from Ireland to New York — she is a mother of three, contemplating her husband’s casket as his men give him a full fireman’s funeral, and faced with a terrible choice. Norah’s mother-in-law, Delia, is stoic and self-preserving. Her early losses have made her keep her children close and her secrets closer. Eileen, Delia’s daughter, adopted from Ireland and tough-as-nails, yet desperate for a sense of belonging, is one of the first women firefighters in New York. It is through her eyes that we experience 9/11, blindsided by the events of that terrible day along with her.
Ashes of Fiery Weather is one of those novels I knew I’d enjoy just by reading the blurb. A family of firefighters. Family saga. Women. Brooklyn. Friendships. Marriages. You don’t need to know much more except that it’s a completely fascinating story.
As always, I feel the need to be honest with you: if you don’t like flashbacks and “confusing” timelines where the story keeps going back and forth, you need to know that this book is all about that.
The novel is divided into different chapters, each one telling the story of one particular woman in the O’Reilly/Keegan family. But it’s not chronological and it keeeps switching dates. Fortunately, the book has a genealogic tree so you can check it out whenever you need (every five pages approximately 😂).
If I had to choose one character, it would probably be Delia. Her story was the one that I liked the most and I also loved how she dealt with everything that happened to her. Don’t get me wrong: all the women were interesting and strong, especially Eileen, but I warmed up to Delia the most. I love to read books that revolve around women and family.
Once again, the only reason I didn’t give this book five stars is because, in the end, I didn’t get as emotional as with other novels I’ve read lately. Maybe it was because there were so many characters, I don’t know. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a beautiful book, because it definitely is.
Ashes of Fiery Weather is a wonderful novel that is perfectly structured and makes it easy for you to picture all those moments and imagine yourself living in Brooklyn, NY and belonging to a firefighter family. The book began with death and ended with hope and I felt it was the perfect way to start and finish a book.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016