Friday, November 3, 2017

Audiobook Review: The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve

Publisher: Random House Audio
Pub. Date: April 18th, 2017
Length: 8 hours, 34 minutes

Genre: Historical Fiction


From the New York Times best-selling author of The Weight of Water and The Pilot's Wife (an Oprah's Book Club selection): an exquisitely suspenseful new novel about an extraordinary young woman tested by a catastrophic event and its devastating aftermath - based on the true story of the largest fire in Maine's history

In October 1947, after a summer-long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast, from Bar Harbor to Kittery, and are soon racing out of control from town to village. Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her husband, Gene, joins the volunteer firefighters. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie's two young children, Grace watches helplessly as their houses burn to the ground, the flames finally forcing them all into the ocean as a last resort. The women spend the night frantically protecting their children and in the morning find their lives forever changed: homeless, penniless, awaiting news of their husbands' fate, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists.

In the midst of this devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms - joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain - and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens - and Grace's bravery is tested as never before.

What Did I Think About the Story?

I've had a love/not love relationship with Anita Shreve's books in the past, but thought that, since this is historical fiction and I did enjoy a few of her previous novels, it might be time to give this newest novel a try. The audiobook version became available from my library and I thought, even better! With such a devastating and action-packed event like a fast-moving fire I thought that a good narrator might really bring this story to life. While I did enjoy aspects of this novel, I'm sorry to say it wasn't a novel to reaffirm my love of Shreve's stories.

It starts out somewhat blandly - with Grace, an unhappy housewife with stair-stepper kids, a distant and sometimes cruel husband, and only one friend she can talk to - languishing away from boredom and unhappiness. It does pick up once the fire starts spreading, and the best part of the novel comes with the detail given to Grace's escape to the ocean with her friend and their children and the terror and physical toll it placed on them. The descriptions of Grace digging out a hole at the ocean's edge and laying with her children, in the freezing water, all night as her body stiffened and she listened to the world fall apart around her from under a wet blanket, was gripping.

While watching Grace pick up her life after the fire was interesting - finding somewhere to life, getting a job, taking care of her mother and children, even a little romance - you get the feeling that it isn't meant to last. I will give credit to Grace's character as she is quite resourceful at finding ways to take care of her family and trying to build a new life for all of them, but when that inevitable other shoe does drop she kind of reverts back into a subservient role for a while,  making me dislike her choices and making it so when she does finally stand up for herself it isn't overly believable. It just seems to come out of nowhere - one minute you're putting up with some unimaginable abuses and the next you've decided to change everything about your life and the way you live it, uprooting everything.

I think my biggest issue, on top of not really caring overmuch for the characters, was the narrator. She had a beautiful voice as she narrated the story, however her vocalization of the characters' dialogue fell flat for me. My biggest pet peeve with narrators is that, if they say the character yelled, gasped, barked, etc., I want to hear the narrator DO what is being described! There's nothing worse than a narrator who blandly read a character's line and then says the character was meant to scream that line. It just gets under my skin and I found that this narrator did just that, barely varying her pitch and tone but saying the character was displaying some sort of emotion that the narrator just didn't display for me.

While the basis of The Stars Are Fire and the driving force - the historic fire that devastated the coast of Maine in 1947 - was fascinating, the family drama wrapped around that history just wasn't as interesting to me. It could be that, with a different narrator that was able to bring the characters' dialogue to life, I might have enjoyed the overall story more, but as it is this story just falls into the "okay" category for me. I'll still continue to give Anita Shreve's novels a try when the synopsis sounds interesting, however I won't rush out to purchase them or snap up the audiobooks when they become available.      

What Did I Think About the Cover?

I think it's gorgeous, even though it's quite simplistic (sparks in a red sky). I've always loved red and gold, so the colors catch my eye, and I love the central placement of the title and author's name. It clearly represents the story well as the fire is the central catalyst to the story, but it could also represent the fire within Grace (if you want to get symbolic). All in all an eye-catching cover for me.

My Rating: 3.0/5.0

I borrowed a copy of The Stars Are Fire from my library's Overdrive account. All opinions are mine alone. Find out more about the book, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase a copy, on Goodreads HERE.



  1. Thank for the review, think I will skip that one. I had a similar experience with an audio book. This time the narrator could not do male voices convincingly and it really threw me off track.

    1. You are so very welcome, Carol!! Yeah, if the audiobook narrator falls flat then the whole story seems to fall flat too :(.

  2. I read this, too, and I don't feel the way you do about it at all.

    I thought it was a pleasure to read! This book, although not a thriller, is full of suspense.

    Anita Shreve was new to me, and I’m so impressed with her writing. Now I want to read her backlist of books.

    What books do you think were better than this one? I want to read those.

    I won THE STARS ARE FIRE from

    1. Thanks Techeditor! It's funny how different readers come away from a book with different opinions about it...that's what I love about reading and sharing reviews! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I much preferred The Pilot's Wife and Fortune's Rocks.