Smoke by Catherine McKenzie. Book Review.

Buy link Smoke

This story focuses on two women who were once best friends, Elizabeth and Mindy. Elizabeth has been trying for years to get pregnant and when Mindy complains about her unwanted pregnancy, angry words are exchanged. The story begins when Elizabeth’s marriage is on the brink of collapse.

The plot focuses around an out-of-control fire that is threatening the town and very close to Elizabeth’s dream home. Elizabeth is an arson investigator and disagrees with her supervisor’s opinion on the cause of the fire. Was it teenagers or was it the homeowner? One teenager, Mindy’s son, refuses to say anything in his own defence when the son of the town diva accuses him of deliberately starting the fire.

The story is filled with all the drama of competitive shallow women. Neither Elizabeth nor Mindy belong in the social circle of money and exclusivity. The loss of their friendship for the last year has left them both vulnerable and lonely.

Elizabeth needs to cope with the dissolution of her marriage, her growing loneliness, conflict with her superior over the fire investigation, meddling in-laws, and the impending destruction of her home and possibly the entire town.

I found the sections on fire containment fascinating. One scene where a telephone was left behind to record the surging fire was particularly vivid and unsettling. I would have liked a bit more nitty-gritty about the experience for the firefighters.

This is the kind of novel that a book club would enjoy reading and discussing. McKenzie’s writing style is easy to follow and engaging. Her characters are relatable and the situations are believable. I appreciated the way she echoed the town’s drama with the expanding fire. The smoke pervaded the lives of the townspeople as the controversy grew. It provided a powerful echo of the interpersonal conflicts.

        

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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