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From the best-selling author of Carry Yourself Back to Me comes another tightly plotted, emotionally complex novel about strangers who happen to be part of the same family. A series of tragedies brings Vivvie’s young grandchildren into her custody, and her two estranged daughters back under one roof. Jackson, Vivvie’s husband, was shot and killed 30 years ago, and the ramif From the best-selling author of Carry Yourself Back to Me comes another tightly plotted, emotionally complex novel about strangers who happen to be part of the same family. A series of tragedies brings Vivvie’s young grandchildren into her custody, and her two estranged daughters back under one roof. Jackson, Vivvie’s husband, was shot and killed 30 years ago, and the ramifications have splintered the family into their own isolated remembrances and recriminations. This deeply personal, hauntingly melancholy look at the damages families inflict on each other – and the healing that only they can provide – is filled with flinty, flawed and complex people stumbling towards some kind of peace. Like Elizabeth Strout and Kazuo Isiguro, Deborah Reed understands a story and its inhabitants reveal themselves in the subtleties: the space between the thoughts, the sigh behind the smile, and the unreliable lies people tell themselves that ultimately reveal the deepest truths.


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From the best-selling author of Carry Yourself Back to Me comes another tightly plotted, emotionally complex novel about strangers who happen to be part of the same family. A series of tragedies brings Vivvie’s young grandchildren into her custody, and her two estranged daughters back under one roof. Jackson, Vivvie’s husband, was shot and killed 30 years ago, and the ramif From the best-selling author of Carry Yourself Back to Me comes another tightly plotted, emotionally complex novel about strangers who happen to be part of the same family. A series of tragedies brings Vivvie’s young grandchildren into her custody, and her two estranged daughters back under one roof. Jackson, Vivvie’s husband, was shot and killed 30 years ago, and the ramifications have splintered the family into their own isolated remembrances and recriminations. This deeply personal, hauntingly melancholy look at the damages families inflict on each other – and the healing that only they can provide – is filled with flinty, flawed and complex people stumbling towards some kind of peace. Like Elizabeth Strout and Kazuo Isiguro, Deborah Reed understands a story and its inhabitants reveal themselves in the subtleties: the space between the thoughts, the sigh behind the smile, and the unreliable lies people tell themselves that ultimately reveal the deepest truths.

30 review for Things We Set on Fire

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    This book was just a potentially good book that never quite lived up to its potential. First things first. (There might be spoilers) The Good: It's well written. The author is clearly not a novice with words and it shows in the way it is written. The plot could have been compelling and its a simple, sad story. The Bad: 1.) I like well written books. When combined with a great plot, it can result in excellence. But this book was overly descriptive and I found myself skimming through paragraphs becau This book was just a potentially good book that never quite lived up to its potential. First things first. (There might be spoilers) The Good: It's well written. The author is clearly not a novice with words and it shows in the way it is written. The plot could have been compelling and its a simple, sad story. The Bad: 1.) I like well written books. When combined with a great plot, it can result in excellence. But this book was overly descriptive and I found myself skimming through paragraphs because i wanted to get to the fucking point already. No one needs to know all those excessive descriptions of leaves and weather. 2.) The characters all fell a bit flat for me. Vivie was a major character but I felt like I still didn't understand her motivations at the end of the book. Elin was the level-headed slightly annoying one and her sister Kate had all these personality flaws that were never fully explained. The writer just used a flat excuse like her disease to explain pretty much all her actions. Oh yeah? that's why she stole her sister's fucking boyfriend and not just had 1 but 2 kids with him! Of course, she feels bad. Neal was also a fucking douchebag and the fact that he tried to excuse his dumbass actions by claiming that he was still "in love" with Elin was bad storytelling. Add that to the fact that there was no reason for his "feelings" to be included at all considering (SPOILER ALERT *****) that they don't even end up together at the end of the book. Waste of freaking time. 3.) This is nit-picky and not nearly as annoying as I'm making it out to be but the characters had weird names. Wink, really? WHY?! All in all, this was by no means a bad book. I just expected better and I was disappointed. Also, I have to point this out. If it takes 100 pages for a writer to get to the meat of her story, I'm already bored and uninterested. That is probably my biggest complaint with this book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Mackler-Paternostro

    Have you wanted to love a book simply because? Because you should, or because you wanted to, or because you've enjoyed other offerings from the novelist? That's how I felt upon beginning my time with The Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed. I wanted to love this book is my kind of novel -- deep with a richly woven narrative, complex and--okay, at times--maddening characters. It's a story with soul. I should have loved this book, and I did love it, but then... Things We Set on Fire begins with a Have you wanted to love a book simply because? Because you should, or because you wanted to, or because you've enjoyed other offerings from the novelist? That's how I felt upon beginning my time with The Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed. I wanted to love this book is my kind of novel -- deep with a richly woven narrative, complex and--okay, at times--maddening characters. It's a story with soul. I should have loved this book, and I did love it, but then... Things We Set on Fire begins with a brazen act of violence so unexpected that it is bound to give the reader pause. That's the way it's designed, for shock and awe. It really is, all things considered, a brilliant way to begin a novel. It leaves one breathless with confusion and worry and does not allow them to set the novel aside, doesn't allow for one to think 'maybe this book isn't for me...' ... it leaps, and you leap with it. Vivvie was widowed too soon. Left to raise her daughters without the man she had loved since she, herself, was little more than a girl. The death of Vivvie's husband has a 'butterfly effect' on her daughters, Elin--the oldest--and Kate--one year Elin's junior--in many ways. Maybe the girls were born destine to bicker and pick at each other mercilessly. Maybe it was the Florida heat that made them ornery. Or maybe it was stress of living in a home where their mother kept an ugly secret that turned her inside out and made her withhold her love that turned them into angry children. Whatever it was in Elin and Kate's childhood that proved to be a catalyst the anger they felt defined them. And then it happened, something that could have bonded them together. But no, it became a secret they were forced to share. It drove the wedge deeper and the guilt they both felt for having it only stood to break them further apart...leading to a betrayal that would come later in their lives. The book opens to find the family grown and spread far and wide. From the Pacific Northwest Portland area to the sunny orange groves of Orlando, Florida. The distance between the girls and their mother isn't accidental, it's purposeful and deliberate, proving some families simply cannot stay close. Vivvie is used to living alone now. Her children are grown and gone and are, for all intents and purposes, estranged from her. She works, she tends to her home, she smokes her cigarettes, she flirts with her neighbor, Wink, she keeps her pile of regrets close. Her life now is as peaceable as it is predictable as it is lonely, and considering what it once was when she had her husband and little girls under foot, it's really only a shadow of what could have been. Kate is dying by fate and she wants to die by choice. Something is ravaging her body, something in her genetics that is bound and determined to take her away from her daughters slowly, methodically, cruelly. She makes the (selfish?) choice to beat it to the end--why fight the inevitable? A bottle of pills, a quiet night, two little girls sleeping in their beds. She'll make the 'leaving' as simple as she can and spares them the horror of watching their mother--the only real and present parent they have--fade slowly away. But something in her plan went wrong and now she still very much alive, still very much dying and forced to face her mother and sister. Elin is at a crossroads. Her life, from the outside, is a slice of perfect. A beautiful home, a handsome and worldly husband, a job, her dog. But what looks perfect from the exterior isn't always so pretty inside: Her husband isn't the man she believed him to be, and she could use some time away from him to collect her thoughts, or punish him, whichever comes first. So when Vivvie calls to tell her about Kate's failed suicide attempt, she has no reason not to go home, expect the singular reason that kept away for a very long time. The Things We Set on Fire is a character book. There is little suspense, little danger, the book focuses most on telling you the story of three generations of women thrown back together and how their interconnected lives unfold when they are forced to not only face each other, but all the things they ran away from. To that end, the characters Reed created are both vibrant and authentic. There is an unmistakable truth to them. They aren't written for you to like or love or even relate to...they are written merely in the vein of feeling real. They are flawed and erratically, helplessly human which only adds to the charm of this book. And as the novel picks up speed, you will find yourself drawn to them because Reed goes to great lengths to explain them to you, to tell you precisely what it is that makes them so broken so you can understand and care. Things We Set on Fire is a beautiful book, but the things that make this novel beautiful--the intense use of flowery language, descriptors for even the most minute details--also prove to be the novel's primary hurdle. The language is thick, verbose, at time staggering and causes the book, for me at least, to sag a little. I found myself getting lost in it, almost losing track of the story because I was so immersed in the way --for example--the fireflies looked. It's not bad, and Reeds precise details of ordinary moments are lovely in moderation, but it came to be distracting page after page, sentence after sentence. I liked this book very much...but I wanted to love it. Isn't that always so disappointing? Regardless, The Things We Set on Fire is well worth the read and I have a feeling few will regret giving the novel time and I have a suspicion that fans of Deborah Reed will cheer.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Renee

    I often wonder what compels one to finish a particular mediocre book but not other equally mediocre books? There have been books in the past that I started, and just gave up on. This was such a book that I thought I would stop, but ended up finishing. Maybe because it was easy to read? First, the pros (because it wasn't ALL bad) 1. The author clearly has experience with migraines. I know this is strange, but the descriptions of what it's like to have one were spot on. And this wasn't even an integ I often wonder what compels one to finish a particular mediocre book but not other equally mediocre books? There have been books in the past that I started, and just gave up on. This was such a book that I thought I would stop, but ended up finishing. Maybe because it was easy to read? First, the pros (because it wasn't ALL bad) 1. The author clearly has experience with migraines. I know this is strange, but the descriptions of what it's like to have one were spot on. And this wasn't even an integral part of the story - just a piece that jumped out to me, because it was such a good description of what its like to have one. 2. Although I didn't much like the book, it was easy to read. There's something to be said for a book that may not be a very great story, but is still able to be mindlessly read. Some of the stuff that ruined the book for me: 1. It was just too predictable. Like lifetime movie predictable. I didn't much care for the characters either. None of them were fleshed out enough for me to really feel like I was in their corner, so to speak. 2. The descriptions of how Elin treated her dog annoyed me. She wasn't an abuser, but the descriptions of her relationship with the dog made me feel a little bad for him. Example: in the morning when he very clearly needs to go out to do his business (and she knows it), she makes him wait inside. Because she can. That's it. He waits until she feels like letting him out. WTF? Just let the poor dog outside. Meh - glad it was free through Amazon First.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Melodie

    Family secrets..everyone has them. And the family in this story is no different. There is a family reunion of sorts about to happen. It's not a happy one. Vivvie has spent most of the past couple decades dealing with a toxic secret. And her chickens are coming home to roost. Vivvie, her daughters and grand-daughters. One secret and three generations of heart ache. But hope and forgiveness is sometimes where it is least expected. This isn't a book that has the usual tie it up in a bow happy endi Family secrets..everyone has them. And the family in this story is no different. There is a family reunion of sorts about to happen. It's not a happy one. Vivvie has spent most of the past couple decades dealing with a toxic secret. And her chickens are coming home to roost. Vivvie, her daughters and grand-daughters. One secret and three generations of heart ache. But hope and forgiveness is sometimes where it is least expected. This isn't a book that has the usual tie it up in a bow happy ending. That just isn't life. It plays out more or less realistically. Initially, I wasn't crazy about any of the main characters except the grand-daughters. But they grew slowly on me as the story played out. Overall a good read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Larry H

    I'd rate this 4.5, maybe even 4.75 stars. Old tensions, hurts, and unresolved arguments between family members are never fun to actually experience, but they're fodder for a treasure trove of fantastic books, movies, television shows, and plays. Deborah Reed's new novel, Things We Set on Fire, is an exquisitely rendered story about the hurts we don't forget and what they drive us to do, as well as the things we think we understand and the truths we rarely do. When a tragedy reunites Vivvie with bo I'd rate this 4.5, maybe even 4.75 stars. Old tensions, hurts, and unresolved arguments between family members are never fun to actually experience, but they're fodder for a treasure trove of fantastic books, movies, television shows, and plays. Deborah Reed's new novel, Things We Set on Fire, is an exquisitely rendered story about the hurts we don't forget and what they drive us to do, as well as the things we think we understand and the truths we rarely do. When a tragedy reunites Vivvie with both of her estranged daughters, and introduces her to her two young granddaughters for the first time, it's almost more than she can bear. Memories of her husband's tragic death in a hunting accident nearly 30 years before haunt her, and the incident and its aftermath was enough to send both of her daughters fleeing their home as soon as they could, and fleeing each other as well. "Why did everything have to go unspoken between Vivvie and Elin? Unspoken but not unaware. Why did they feel the need to play this game of fool you/fool me that neither was winning or would ever win?" Vivvie's older daughter, Elin, is the midst of her own crisis when her mother summons her home to Florida, so leaving Portland seems like the logical thing to do. But Elin has run before, and it cost her more than she ever imagined. And returning home reopens wounds that had never really healed, and forces her to confront incidents from her past that she had hoped never to deal with again. "Her sister was a stranger whose life had existed outside of Elin's understanding, hidden from her affections, an outsider with a warmth and affection all her own, uncloaked inside this house, broadcast in everything around her, the faces of her daughters the most staggering display." So often in life problems stem from jumping to the wrong conclusions or simply leaving things unsaid in the hopes they're already understood. As Vivvie and her daughters come together again, they have to relive memories from long ago and accept the correct answers to questions they've always had. Yet while these do bring more pain, they also bring catharsis, as only through clarity can they start to heal and move on with their lives. This is a beautifully written book about trying to come together after so much has transpired through so many years. Deborah Reed does a wonderful job in creating flawed characters that evoke your sympathies, and demonstrating how, much like real life, what we think we know and see is often quite different than what is true. Reed's story is painful, emotional, and moving, and her language is tremendously poetic. While you may not have experienced any of these issues that the characters in Things We Set on Fire did, the emotions the characters deal with are nearly universal, which increases its power. Well done.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This book was free from Amazon, so I decided to give it a try. Everyone, I think, has family member(s) they need to give another chance to reconnect. To put aside hostilities and barriers. I wanted to see what this book had to say. The story starts a bit off-putting. I really thought about quitting right after the prologue. But I decided it had to get better, at least towards the end, and I continued to read. By about chapter 10 I was really into the story and did not want to put the book down. W This book was free from Amazon, so I decided to give it a try. Everyone, I think, has family member(s) they need to give another chance to reconnect. To put aside hostilities and barriers. I wanted to see what this book had to say. The story starts a bit off-putting. I really thought about quitting right after the prologue. But I decided it had to get better, at least towards the end, and I continued to read. By about chapter 10 I was really into the story and did not want to put the book down. Well written and each character's view points were interwoven very smoothly. Sometimes I would get irritated with the mom. "Come on, you know you need to say it, just say it!" Or the sister not letting someone else explain themselves without her twisting the words or intentions. The heat and humidity of Florida, the joy of seeing your first snow on the mountains, and the angst and the frustrations of letting go, I felt it all. The author did a nice job setting the scene. What was the message? Don't be so hard on yourself or others. Life is short and you need to find what makes you happy. Let go of all the negative energy, it's unhealthy.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    I have to say that this book was not what I expected. The prologue caused me to stop and think. I wasn't sure that I wanted to read yet another book about the horrors family members can inflict on one another. But the book was free, and my first book from the new Kindle First program, so I read on, wanting to give it a fair shot. There's no horror story. There is plenty of despair and anguish, but none of it results from evil intentions. There is an imperfect family with terrible problems, fractu I have to say that this book was not what I expected. The prologue caused me to stop and think. I wasn't sure that I wanted to read yet another book about the horrors family members can inflict on one another. But the book was free, and my first book from the new Kindle First program, so I read on, wanting to give it a fair shot. There's no horror story. There is plenty of despair and anguish, but none of it results from evil intentions. There is an imperfect family with terrible problems, fractured and distant from each other for years. Misplaced good intentions fail because of a lack of understanding and communication. It takes a death to begin the healing process for them all. By the end of the book, there is also some peace, and a brighter future for the family as a whole. This is a very well written book, and I did enjoy reading it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Janice

    At first I loved this book, with just the right emotional intensity and interesting characters. But somehow it just never went anywhere for me after that. The story about a mom with two adult daughters who are both, in varying degrees, estranged from her, was one that I thought would really pull me in, but the characters were never really given enough depth to engage me very much. At the same time, this author does have good writing skills, good at descriptive detail, and should have been able t At first I loved this book, with just the right emotional intensity and interesting characters. But somehow it just never went anywhere for me after that. The story about a mom with two adult daughters who are both, in varying degrees, estranged from her, was one that I thought would really pull me in, but the characters were never really given enough depth to engage me very much. At the same time, this author does have good writing skills, good at descriptive detail, and should have been able to do much more with this story.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nenette

    I like how this story ended. It was atypical, and yet very realistic. Elin and Neal did not end up together, as I had expected, and yet they were both on their way to resolving their individual issues. The central theme of the story is not so much about ALS but on how major roadblocks such as a debilitating or life-threatening disease can change the course of the lives of each family member. It was written with a very lyrical prose, that is not so much to my taste, but it surely painted the drama I like how this story ended. It was atypical, and yet very realistic. Elin and Neal did not end up together, as I had expected, and yet they were both on their way to resolving their individual issues. The central theme of the story is not so much about ALS but on how major roadblocks such as a debilitating or life-threatening disease can change the course of the lives of each family member. It was written with a very lyrical prose, that is not so much to my taste, but it surely painted the dramatic theme of the story. If it was the intent of the author to put on a heavy weight on the heart of the reader, then she achieved that, probably in the same way that she intended to lift that weight at the end when the characters let go of their burdens. The story showcases the resiliency of human beings, adult and child alike. Families will pass through difficult times, ties may be severed, but there is always hope of repairing the damage, of starting over.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Holliday

    Masterful This woman is such an exquisite writer. Sentence after sentence that were as delicious as this moment is, sitting in my cabin by a fire in the blue ridge mountains, grieving the the thought of ever leaving, and the turning of the final page of this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sam Sattler

    Deborah Reed’s Things We Set on Fire is all about family secrets and the potential that these secrets have to destroy a family over time. It tells the story of the Fentons, mother and two daughters, a little family that learns the hard way how easily it can be destroyed when everyone refuses to talk about the secret they all know but are afraid to openly examine. The girls, Elin and Kate, lose their father suddenly. One moment he is there and the family is thriving, the next he is gone, victim of Deborah Reed’s Things We Set on Fire is all about family secrets and the potential that these secrets have to destroy a family over time. It tells the story of the Fentons, mother and two daughters, a little family that learns the hard way how easily it can be destroyed when everyone refuses to talk about the secret they all know but are afraid to openly examine. The girls, Elin and Kate, lose their father suddenly. One moment he is there and the family is thriving, the next he is gone, victim of an unsolved shooting that authorities consider to be a tragic accident. Now, some thirty years later, the three women are forced to confront the secrets that almost destroyed them all those years ago. They have no choice. Kate, the mother of two little girls, is in the hospital near death, and her children, although they know neither their grandmother nor their aunt, have no one else in the world to care for them. What happens next is not what any of them expected. The characters of Things We Set on Fire are generally sympathetic ones even when their behavior is at its most irritatingly selfish. That Reed’s female characters are so flawed does make them considerably more believable than their near-perfect male counterparts, but this contrast leaves the novel with a “TV Movie” feel. The relatively short novel would have packed more of an emotional punch had Reed more fully developed each of her five main characters and their individual side stories. As it stands, Things We Set on Fire is more representative of the sometimes denigrated genre “chick-lit” than it is of a literary novel.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Brenda Funk

    I quite enjoyed this book...the theme of ALS interested me as my youngest sister passed away from that awful disease. The characters were flawed and interesting, I found the ending just a bit too 'happily ever after' to be realistic, but still, a good book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Spicer

    I would give this 6 out of 5 if I could. So beautifully written

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    A fragile secret that lays dormant in the blood will force two daughters back into their damaged mother's life. Vivie's daughters, Kate and Elin, are estranged from each other and distant with their mother after the choices each made drove them apart. Both of Vivie's grown daughters are trapped by some unnamed memory related to the day their father was mysteriously shot to death, a memory that haunts them with questions they don't want to ask. Elin is living on the other side of the country, far A fragile secret that lays dormant in the blood will force two daughters back into their damaged mother's life. Vivie's daughters, Kate and Elin, are estranged from each other and distant with their mother after the choices each made drove them apart. Both of Vivie's grown daughters are trapped by some unnamed memory related to the day their father was mysteriously shot to death, a memory that haunts them with questions they don't want to ask. Elin is living on the other side of the country, far away from her suffocating childhood when she gets a call from her mother that her careless sister Kate has attempted suicide, leaving her two little girls in their mother's care. Vivie needs her help. Elin's own seemingly secure life has thrown her and she knows she must go to her sister, even though Kate had burned the bridge between them long ago. What solid knowledge Elin had about her feckless sister falls away as she sees her in the hospital bed. The incident that kept Elin from meeting her nieces all these years becomes nothing when she finds two beautiful lonely little girls in grave need of love. Kate has been struggling for so long on her own, not out of pride so much as out of love for her family. Vivie will have to face her regrets, mistakes, and sins to give her family a chance to love again. This novel is deeply painful and moving. I imagine when Neal enters the scene some readers will feel Elin wouldn't react as she does. I feel the opposite, I think what seems important when we're young sheds with the years, and forgiveness is easier when those you love are involved. It's hard to write a review and explore each person without giving the story away. All I can say is, read it!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sierra

    This novel centers around a family that is brought together under tragic circumstances after years of avoiding each other and being scattered across the country. The ensuing action entails the way the family deals with the aftermath and examines relationships that remain in the wake of tragedy. This book was great but there were a few things that could have been better. To begin with, the characters weren't all that interesting and were pretty flat. I was disappointed with the lack of strong rel This novel centers around a family that is brought together under tragic circumstances after years of avoiding each other and being scattered across the country. The ensuing action entails the way the family deals with the aftermath and examines relationships that remain in the wake of tragedy. This book was great but there were a few things that could have been better. To begin with, the characters weren't all that interesting and were pretty flat. I was disappointed with the lack of strong relationships here. There was hope for strong family relationships to be established but that was dashed by a sullen protagonist who couldn't quite get over herself. I was bored by the constant and redundant pontificating. I disliked the conclusions that the characters would draw about a family member or situation. There were a few gems of wisdom here and there but mostly I was annoyed by the protagonists' lack of desire to forgive and their justifications for it. The storyline itself was interesting, which kept me reading despite my issue with the characters. Reed really knew what she was doing in terms of plot and engaging the reader's interest. She would reveal a glimpse of a past event and then expand upon it later, so that the reader would essentially know what happened but had enough doubt or curiosity to continue reading and find out. While this book wasn't as moving as I'd hoped, it has a great story and has some touching moments and insights that one could learn from. It's a quick read so if you're looking for something that isn't too substantial or don't want to get too emotionally invested in a novel yet still want some excitement from the plot, this one's for you.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Madden

    I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review......... Vivvie is woken in the middle of the night by a phone call from local police, asking her to come and collect her two grandaughters. Her youngest daughter, Kate, is in the hospital and there is no one else to mind the little girls. Vivvie is no stranger to heartbreak as we discover early on in this book. She is a widow, with two estranged daughters and now is landed with two young girls she barely knows and she cont I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review......... Vivvie is woken in the middle of the night by a phone call from local police, asking her to come and collect her two grandaughters. Her youngest daughter, Kate, is in the hospital and there is no one else to mind the little girls. Vivvie is no stranger to heartbreak as we discover early on in this book. She is a widow, with two estranged daughters and now is landed with two young girls she barely knows and she contacts her other daughter, Elin for some help. All is not what it seems though and the two women discover that Kate's disappearance from their lives may have had a hidden agenda. The author blends parts of the past with the present and we can begin to form a picture of the girl's lives growing up with their widowed mother and all that it entailed. Sisters can clash at the best of times, but the loss of their father at an early age, shaped their personalities for the future. Both stubborn and self preserving, they chose to remove themselves from their mother's life and try to be individuals in their own right. When Kate is hospitalised, the women are forced to examine their current situations and assess their priorities. This is a novel of feeling. Beautifully written with some wonderful prose, harrowing at times, but all with a view to exploring the meaning of family. Split into four parts, it has short chapters, is very easy to read and it is over before you know it. I loved the whole feel of a non- traditional family and how a moment of misery can sometimes bring change you could never expect. Well worth reading.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Darcia Helle

    I finished this book two days ago and I'm still not quite sure how I feel about it. The writing itself is beautiful. Deborah Reed captures all the little details that bring a scene to life. I felt the sticky heat and heard the cicadas chirping. I saw each movement playing out in my mind. From the first page, we're brought into the midst of family dysfunction. The emotions are deep, dark and compelling. But what makes this story poignant also makes it incredibly hard to read. By midway through, I I finished this book two days ago and I'm still not quite sure how I feel about it. The writing itself is beautiful. Deborah Reed captures all the little details that bring a scene to life. I felt the sticky heat and heard the cicadas chirping. I saw each movement playing out in my mind. From the first page, we're brought into the midst of family dysfunction. The emotions are deep, dark and compelling. But what makes this story poignant also makes it incredibly hard to read. By midway through, I was desperate for a sliver of hope within all the misery. The characters are well developed, almost tangible. I could see them all as real people in the room with me. But, aside from the two little girls, I didn't particularly like them. What might once have been intense love turned into indifference bordering on dislike, and I'm not quite sure the explanation for that made sense. They leave one another floundering and only seem to care when it's too late. I badly wanted a different ending, a different choice from one of the characters that would have offered me that sliver of hope I craved. But life and books don't always give me what I want, and that leaves me here wondering how I feel about the journey.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jennuineglass

    This might be a four star book...but it was just such a mismatch from my current emotional state that I found myself slogging through it at times going, good god this is depressing. It falls solidly into the genre of "shattered dysfunctional family comes together for an event; so do they rip into one another or heal old wounds?". Generally I like this genre, but this one was just too much female energy at times, too wordy, and not edgy enough. You never got that truly satisfying throw-down of eve This might be a four star book...but it was just such a mismatch from my current emotional state that I found myself slogging through it at times going, good god this is depressing. It falls solidly into the genre of "shattered dysfunctional family comes together for an event; so do they rip into one another or heal old wounds?". Generally I like this genre, but this one was just too much female energy at times, too wordy, and not edgy enough. You never got that truly satisfying throw-down of everyone laying it out on the table and having a go at one another. Admissions, when any where had, were veiled and couched in one sentence with no dialogue. The whole book felt like they were screaming through a wad of gauze...repressed and mumbled even though they were being torn apart inside. So not a bad read by any stretch. A bit depressing, and a bit like trying to drive 48 mph in 3rd gear...you keep wanting it to upshift. And it doesn't. Happy Reading!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten

    I read a review that really disliked the detailed description of the natural world, and the lack of explanations. These two things were part of what I loved about the book. So much of these characters' lives centered around the lack of words, the lack of explanation, that I felt the author created that for us as readers too. As readers, the revelation of what actually has gone on, the intuition of what's actually happened, is so close to how humans understand each other in real life. As for natu I read a review that really disliked the detailed description of the natural world, and the lack of explanations. These two things were part of what I loved about the book. So much of these characters' lives centered around the lack of words, the lack of explanation, that I felt the author created that for us as readers too. As readers, the revelation of what actually has gone on, the intuition of what's actually happened, is so close to how humans understand each other in real life. As for natural descriptions, the intensity with which you notice these things is heightened in times of emotional stress, and intense details of nature felt - to me - to be an important part of the setting. At the end of the book, Elin & Neal actually discuss whether humans have 'natural habitats.' It isn't a perfect novel, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jennie

    Excellent. And beautifully written. When reading the description of this book I thought, "Meh. Just another book about poor, southern rednecks and the torturous pain of an abusive, redneck childhood. Meh." However, it was offered to me for free under the new Amazon Preview program, and so I began. It is not about an abusive, redneck childhood. The story is much cleverer than that. It has quite the plot and is quite deep in the humanity that it explores. I am quite impressed with the author and w Excellent. And beautifully written. When reading the description of this book I thought, "Meh. Just another book about poor, southern rednecks and the torturous pain of an abusive, redneck childhood. Meh." However, it was offered to me for free under the new Amazon Preview program, and so I began. It is not about an abusive, redneck childhood. The story is much cleverer than that. It has quite the plot and is quite deep in the humanity that it explores. I am quite impressed with the author and with her ability to write. It's not overdone, and it's not underdone. Rather like Goldilocks, it's just right.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sandra Nachlinger

    Some stories are fun to read or have a compelling plot, but they’re similar to others and forgotten. That is not the case with THINGS WE SET ON FIRE. From the opening chapter the author made me wonder - If Vivvie loved her husband, why would she do such a horrible thing? The effects of her action, both on herself and on her two daughters, are brought to light after Vivvie receives a late-night call from the police saying, "There's been an accident, ma'am." This is not a cheery, feel-good tale, b Some stories are fun to read or have a compelling plot, but they’re similar to others and forgotten. That is not the case with THINGS WE SET ON FIRE. From the opening chapter the author made me wonder - If Vivvie loved her husband, why would she do such a horrible thing? The effects of her action, both on herself and on her two daughters, are brought to light after Vivvie receives a late-night call from the police saying, "There's been an accident, ma'am." This is not a cheery, feel-good tale, but it kept me turning pages when I should have been sleeping. It is one story I won’t soon forget.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Larry

    A story of three generations of women and girls, so richly told that it drew me in like few novels do: I felt I was sitting inside the living room while real live people fought and cried and played around me. A 30-year-old murder triggers a series of misunderstandings which lead to lifelong resentments and regret, until a light is shed on its motivation and past events turn out to be not what they seem. While it's essentially a family drama, Reed achieves a depth and complexity of emotion that ne A story of three generations of women and girls, so richly told that it drew me in like few novels do: I felt I was sitting inside the living room while real live people fought and cried and played around me. A 30-year-old murder triggers a series of misunderstandings which lead to lifelong resentments and regret, until a light is shed on its motivation and past events turn out to be not what they seem. While it's essentially a family drama, Reed achieves a depth and complexity of emotion that never comes anywhere close to melodrama. If you enjoy prose that's as musical and tight as a guitar string, which will move you deeply and inspire you to live mindfully, you will love this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Corina

    I thought this was an amazing book. I don't understand the negative reviews at all. One in particular says that nothing happens from beginning to end. Nothing could be more wrong. This is a story in which, at first glance, we learn enough about the characters to dislike them and to form our opinions of them. Then, like peeling an onion, the truth about each character and how they helped to form the story is revealed to us. It is so gradual that we don't learn everyone's story until almost the end I thought this was an amazing book. I don't understand the negative reviews at all. One in particular says that nothing happens from beginning to end. Nothing could be more wrong. This is a story in which, at first glance, we learn enough about the characters to dislike them and to form our opinions of them. Then, like peeling an onion, the truth about each character and how they helped to form the story is revealed to us. It is so gradual that we don't learn everyone's story until almost the end of the novel. This is my first novel by this author, Deborah Reed, but it won't be my last. She more than earned this very rare 5 star review!

  24. 4 out of 5

    K~Terror

    I wasn't sure what to expect from this book but it absolutely sucked me in from the start. The characters were interesting but not necessarily people I felt drawn too... But they were so real - flaws and all. The more I read, the more I liked the mom and her daughters - and the more my husband had to pry the book from my hands. Definitely a pleasant surprise and so glad I read it. If there were half stars, I would have rated a 4.5.. If it didn't leave me so sad in parts, I may have rated higher. I wasn't sure what to expect from this book but it absolutely sucked me in from the start. The characters were interesting but not necessarily people I felt drawn too... But they were so real - flaws and all. The more I read, the more I liked the mom and her daughters - and the more my husband had to pry the book from my hands. Definitely a pleasant surprise and so glad I read it. If there were half stars, I would have rated a 4.5.. If it didn't leave me so sad in parts, I may have rated higher. (But that is likely more my own flawed rating system than the author's issue.)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Davis

    I have no idea how I ended up with this book, but it was on my Kindle and I needed something to read, so I went ahead and read it. It was mostly mediocre, but kept me engaged. There was a little bit of mystery, but I figured out what was going on before it was revealed, and it wasn't quite emotionally satisfying as it resolved. The characters were well-written, as far as they went, but they were all people running from themselves and their own stories; they didn't seem to know themselves, so it I have no idea how I ended up with this book, but it was on my Kindle and I needed something to read, so I went ahead and read it. It was mostly mediocre, but kept me engaged. There was a little bit of mystery, but I figured out what was going on before it was revealed, and it wasn't quite emotionally satisfying as it resolved. The characters were well-written, as far as they went, but they were all people running from themselves and their own stories; they didn't seem to know themselves, so it was hard for me as a reader to feel I really knew them.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    My low rating is due to the narrator who I really, really disliked. It took me awhile to put a finger on her approach. In the end I decided she sounded like she was reading a Nancy Drew mystery. It made some of the incidents and occasional poetic language sound absurd. I forgot I also had the kindle edition. I should have switched to reading rather than listening. It apparently took the author 16 years to finish this. It may explain why the story seemed disjointed. Two sisters, an awful mother, My low rating is due to the narrator who I really, really disliked. It took me awhile to put a finger on her approach. In the end I decided she sounded like she was reading a Nancy Drew mystery. It made some of the incidents and occasional poetic language sound absurd. I forgot I also had the kindle edition. I should have switched to reading rather than listening. It apparently took the author 16 years to finish this. It may explain why the story seemed disjointed. Two sisters, an awful mother, two daughters, and family secrets. At the end, I just didn't really care.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sonja Yoerg

    The writing in this book is exceptional. Reed's prose sings on every page and took my breath away in places. The story is about a Vivvie, her daughters and her granddaughters. In the opening scene Vivvie intentionally shoots her husband. The reason for her action, and the consequences of it, form the basis for the estrangement of the characters. As the histories and secrets unfold, we come to understand the power and limitations of forgiveness and its flip side, regret. I adored this story.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Vivian

    "Is waiting until our love no longer resembles itself going to serve some higher good?" Vivvien had to do what she had to do. That, or have it done to her. There were no two ways around it. Now she finds herself facing a similar situation. After so many years -Payback. "But not every kind of love called for action. Some demanded one to stay put." ~ struggle, family and forgiveness. All intertwined. Because they do, after all.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Beautifully told story about mothers and sisters and daughters and all the ways we fail and save one another. Reed's settings and characters breathe from the page and nothing is neat or easily solved. Filled with love but always aware that love burns down as often as it builds, this is a short novel that lingers long in the mind and heart. Recommended.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Marsha Belflower

    I was disappointed, I really wanted to enjoy it. Each character has layers of dysfunction. I could not really like any of them. My main problem was the editing. It didn't flow for me, and pronouns were so over used, it was difficult to figure out who was who. I think it would be much better with some new editing.

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