Thursday, July 21, 2016

History Corner/ Book Review: Ashes of Fiery Weather by Kathleen Donohoe

Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this book, free of charge,froHoughton Mifflin Harcourt, via Netgalley, , for review purposes on this blog. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about the book, all opinions are my own

This new book comes out next month, but it needs to be on your reading list for Fall!

Ashes of Fiery Weather cover

A debut novel about the passionate loves and tragic losses of six generations of women in a family of firefighters, spanning from famine-era Ireland to Brooklyn a decade after 9/11


"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.   

Poignant, wise, and immersive, Ashes of Fiery Weather is a tour de force in the tradition of Let the Great World Spin, one that explores the emotional wounds and ultimate resilience of those drawn to fire, as well as the many ways we search for each other, and the many ways we hope to be rescued.  


This book is more than a book about 9/11. It's about family- what makes a family, be it blood or by friendship, and how we are closer to one another than we think (aka 6 degrees of separation) and even when separated, family always finds its way back. Really the first 2/3rds of the book focuses on the WOMEN and their lives, and then how their children grow up and move on, leading to the next chapter/person's life. It is a generational story of one family, and its many varied branches. And yet it is also about the blood- the desire to fight fires that appears in this one family, generation after generation, leading up to 9/11 and how it affected the entire family. How there was loss, yet rebirth at the same time. 

The first 2/3rds of the book is a page turner, with you eagerly waiting to see what happens next in the family. It is hard to get through the 9/11 section without tears. Kathleen does an excellent job, sharing the emotions of both those waiting, those fleeing and those running in to help the victims. For us, having lost a friend of the family, who was one of the firemen lost that day in the 2nd building, I had to catch my breath a few times, as memories flooded back. My only complaint with the book was a somewhat rushed ending. It felt like the last section was stopped and the reader left to guess what would happen. In a way a diverting from the style of the book. if Kathleen means to write a second book, then it makes sense. If not, then I'd wish for a bit more resolution at the end. But all in all, it is a stunning debut novel that truly shares not only the history of Brooklyn firefighting, but of an Irish American family and how their history intertwines with it.

About the Author:

Kathleen Donohoe grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in a family of New York City firefighters.   She currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son and is at work on her next novel.

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