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Review: Things You Save in A Fire

Things You Save in a Fire

Title: Things You Save in a Fire
Author: Katherine Center
Genre: Literary Fiction, Romance
Page Count: 320
Published by: St. Martin’s Griffin
Date Published: August 13, 2019
You can find it here: Bookshop.org


Cassie Hanwell is a born hero – calm, cool, and collected under enormous pressure, she is one of the best firefighter/EMT’s her Texas firehouse has ever seen. But her compulsively ordered life is turned upside down when her estranged mother phones asking for Cassie to return home to help her recover from complications of major surgery.

Now the newbie in an old-school Boston firehouse that lacks proper funding and facilities, Cassie finds herself fighting against the “old guard, bro-code”, constantly needing to prove herself to this institution resistant on change. That’s fine by her, she’s tough, she can take it … except when it comes to the supportive and very distracting Rookie. He might just be the achilles heel of this superhero.


I have such a love-hate relationship going on with this story! I absolutely loved the exploration of the challenges, motivations, and hurdles that female firefighters have to overcome. How they have to do everything twice as well as their male counterparts, and still be looked down upon. Katherine Center has very strong knowledge of the firehouse culture and it was very authentically brought to life … no matter how infuriating it is to read.

Cassie herself is probably the most prickly heroine I’ve ever read. She is so incredibly guarded, which is completely warranted and fully within her character as her backstory and painful history is revealed. However, it was her need to see herself as “anti-female” everything that really started to grate on my nerves. Again, in her profession and as a coping mechanism of her past pain, it absolutely made sense … but I feel the author tended to continue to beat us over the head with it. To the point that I really started to feel insulted! We get it, she hates everything female, she equates femaleness with weakness. My brand of feminism doesn’t involve punching down on those who “like to pick out throw pillows with their delusional boyfriends” on the weekends.

But the conversation on pain, trauma, and ultimately forgiveness was sensational. The mother-daughter dynamic here is the pulsing heart that propels the undercurrent of the story and is it exceptional. Forgiveness is such a challenging topic and I really feel Katherine Center explored this delicately, with strong attention to both sides of a conflicted relationship.

Overall this is a powerful, intelligently written, and emotionally resonant novel that explores sexism, feminism, love, vulnerability, and forgiveness. An excellent portrayal of the human condition, flaws and all, and that the road to healing is never linear. While I do feel I’ve never read a character who works so hard to be miserable, it is warranted within her arc. For me, Cassie’s “anti-feminine everything” stance was overwrought, becoming tiresome and insulting. However the growth of her character and the emotionally powerful conversations on forgiveness is what won me over. Very insightful.

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