Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:
1947. After a summer-long drought, fires are racing along the coast of Maine, ravaging two hundred thousand acres - the largest fire in the state's history.
Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her husband Gene joins the volunteers fighting to bring the fire under control. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie's two young children, the women watch in horror as their houses go up in flames, then walk into the ocean as a last resort. They spend the night frantically trying to save their children. When dawn comes, they have miraculously survived, but their lives are forever changed: homeless, penniless, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists.
As Grace awaits news of her husband's fate, she is thrust into a new world in which she must make a life on her own, beginning with absolutely nothing - she must find work, a home, a way to provide for her children. In the midst of 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.
October 1947. After a summer long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast and are soon racing out of control. 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. Awaiting news of their husbands' fate, facing an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists, Grace discovers joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain.
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Library Journal Review
Shreve's (Stella Bain) latest brings readers to 1947 coastal Maine. In a close-knit town, Grace Holland, a young mother of two, enjoys camaraderie with her neighbor Rosie. She feels herself relax into discussions with Rosie that she can't have with her taciturn husband or her loving but rather rigid mother. In a time when the only advance warning for fire is the smell of smoke, residents prepare ahead of time. Grace wakes to the sound of her daughter coughing, bundles her children into the baby carriage, and carries them to the beach, where she thinks quickly enough to prepare protective wet air pockets from blankets, ordering Rosie to do the same. As the town burns around her, Grace rises to handle each astonishing ordeal as she meets it. VERDICT Based on the harrowing true story of the largest fire to ravage the coast of Maine, this is sure to be a best seller. Shreve's prose mirrors the action of the fire, with popping embers of action, licks of blazing rage, and the slow burn of lyrical character development. Absolutely stunning. [See Prepub Alert, 11/16/16; "Editors' Spring Picks," LJ 2/15/17.]- Julie Kane, Washingrton & Lee Lib., Lexington, VA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Stuck in a loveless and uncommunicative marriage with her husband, Gene, young housewife and mother Grace Holland has resigned herself to a future of childcare and housework. It's just after World War II, and there aren't many other opportunities for married women in coastal Maine. But when, after a summer-long drought, a massive fire breaks out and threatens her home and community, Grace may have an unexpected chance not only to rebuild but also to rewrite her personal narrative. Shreve (Stella Bain) writes with fondness of the coastal New England landscape, and she provides plenty of vintage details to evoke postwar life. Characterizations, however, are less convincing; Gene's cruelty to Grace seems disproportionate to its purported rationale, and the novel's final pages feel implausible and anachronistic, even given Grace's newfound self-reliance. Nevertheless, many readers will be buoyed by Grace's strength and resourcefulness and will be eager to debate the ethical decisions she makes as she seizes her independence. 200,000-copy announced first printing. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
After the wettest spring in memory, the summer of 1947 is dry and scorching in coastal Maine. Grace welcomes the long days that allow her to get out with her two young children, but at home, they only heighten the turbulence in her struggling marriage. Life changes overnight when wildfires sweep down the coast, destroying everything in their path. Through a terror-filled night, Grace manages to save herself and her children, but by morning, their home is gone and her husband is missing. With little education or job experience, Grace takes a risk by moving her family to a new town and taking work where she can find it. She thrives in her new surroundings, but rebuilding one's life does not mean that the past won't find you. Though the characters lack dimension, best-selling Shreve's (Stella Bain, 2013) portrayal of a community in a natural disaster is on point, and Grace's self-discovery in her time of need is genuine. Ultimately, this is a suspenseful and heartwarming story of not just overcoming but also growing in the face of great difficulty. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A robust print run, avid publicity, and an author tour will drum up interest in Shreve's latest page-turner.--Ophoff, Cortney Copyright 2017 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Shreve's latest takes on natural disasters, public and private.The summer of 1947 was unseasonably hot, leading to a drought that had devastating consequences for the state of Maine. Shreve's novel tells the story of the Great Fires of Maine from the perspective of Grace, a housewife living near the coast. Grace faces a drought of a different kind, in her marriage. Husband Gene, a surveyor, never talks about the war experiences that left him with inner and outer scars, but "the other husbands don't either." What is unusual, at least compared to how Grace's neighbor Rosie describes her love life, is how brutal Gene can be in bed. With two children under 2 and another on the way, Grace's domestic arrangements are increasingly stressed as blistering summer advances. By October, the entire state is a tinderbox; even a dropped cigarette can set a parched lawn ablaze. As wildfires threaten, Gene leaves with a crew of men to dig a fire break. Awakened in the middle of the night, Grace realizes her town is burning. She flees to the seashore with her children and the clothes on her back and spends the night along with Rosie and many others huddled under soaked blankets. After rescue comes, Grace's baby is stillborn. Now homeless, with the children and her mother in tow, Grace moves into a vacant beach-side mansion which, she thinks, was left to Gene by his late mother, Merle. Except that Gene has been declared missing, and the mansion is not unoccupied: Aidan, an Irish pianist, has been squatting there since the fire disrupted his concert tour. Gene's absence seems downright salutary. A brief affair with Aidan shows her what Rosie was talking about, and he resumes his tour, promising to return. All the contentedness stalls the novel, until Shreve shakes things up in a way that descends into woman-in-jeopardy territory. The back stories of the main characters are so sketchy that their actions seem unmotivated and arbitrary. Formulaic plot aside, worth reading for the period detail and the evocative prose. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.