Sunday, February 21, 2016

Smoke by Catherine McKenzie

4 Star

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.

Kathryn - 4 Star

I read Smoke slowly which I made the novel creep like the smoke gradually encompassing the town in the novel (poetry in reading apparently).  I didn’t realise at the time that this made the story for me but it did.  You could read it quickly, Catherine McKenzie is a wonderful writer, but for me I was glad I didn’t rush through this one.  The pace of the novel asked for it to be read more quickly as one wanted to find out the source of the fire as much as Elizabeth did but at the same time I didn’t want to rush to conclusions either. 

The complications between Elizabeth and Ben explored human relationships but I didn’t love Elizabeth. Despite her story being told in the first person I felt very little connection to her until at least half way through the novel when her connection to fire-fighting and the reason she and Ben were having troubles surfaced.  She emerged a little more when McKenzie started to connect Mindy and Elizabeth, their friendship and how they’d let each other down. It takes relationships to be a complete character and it was a long time before I felt that way about Elizabeth.  I felt the opposite about Mindy and related to her immediately because we were given her thoughts from the start. It was interesting to have these two women presented to us so differently.

I was disappointed by the ending- I think I didn’t want the facts to end up as they were, but at the same time I liked the simplicity of the source in the end.  There were a number of types of relationships in Smoke that were explored and as they evolved this is what made the plot complete- I was also mesmerized by the story of the fire and its development so although I would have preferred a different outcome that was probably a bit of wishful thinking.

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

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