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Ashes of Fiery Weather by Kathleen Donohoe

Ashes of Fiery Weather

by Kathleen Donohoe

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Ashes of Fiery Weather is a 2016 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publication.

This debut novel is an astounding portrait of six generations of women, spanning a significant period of time, beginning at the end of the potato famine and ending a decade after the 9/11 attacks, all of whom were living within a family of firefighters.

This novel is more like a collection of short stories, or vignettes, none of which follows a set timeframe, but highlights the sacrifices and heroism, not only of those who served as firefighters, but the wives, mothers and sisters who loved them, lost them, worried over them and supported them.

The disjointed time frame could be jarring, but I felt it worked out better than if the author had stuck to a strict chronological timeline.

These stories are often stark, raw and brutal in their realistic portrayal of life as a firefighter, always living on the edge. But, the story is also about family, about the expectations, the struggles, and the bonds they forge having their heritage and the common thread of a dangerous but brave occupation binding them tightly together.

I admired each generation of women, all them a reflection of the time period in which they lived. Tragedy, and the effects it has on the family is portrayed in a forthright manner, with no sugar coating.

Despite Norah’s bleak reality, which certainly resonated with me, I think Eileen is the character I cheered for more than any other, mainly because she pursued her goals despite such ugly opposition.

I found each segment interesting and unique and enjoyed seeing the way the family spanned out, the difference they made and the way they all managed to stay connected no matter what forces were working against them.

Firefighters have always been, and always will be heroes to me, and I’ve had a long standing respect for their families. The history and personal insights into a family of firefighters only solidifies that respect and gives me a deeper sensitivity to their families.

I was impressed with the author’s writing style and will add her to a long list of debut author’s I’ve discovered this year that are worth keeping an eye on. ( )
  gpangel | Dec 27, 2016 |
I really wanted to love this book - what's not to love? This is the story of the women who loved and were six generations of Irish firefighters in Brooklyn. But the constant back and forth flashbacks were almost unreadable to me by the end of the book. I think some flashbacks are ok, but have really become an overused story device. I would have loved to gotten to know these characters in a more linear fashion. ( )
  carriehh | Oct 4, 2016 |
This is a compelling look at a history of firefighting in New York City told through six generations of women. The book is broken down into a section for each woman featured. The reader has the opportunity to become acquainted with each of these unique women, as well as with their families and friends of that era. I simply loved it, from the storyline to the excellent writing. ( )
  Susan.Macura | Sep 25, 2016 |
3.5 Touched by flame. Six woman from the Keegan/O' Reilly clan tell their stories in these lengthy vignettes. All have sons, fathers, that were firefighters, died in the line of duty and how this effected themselves their families and what happened after in their lives. From Ireland after the potato famine to ten years after 911, the beginning of the fire departments in New York and the closeness of these fire families. It is also a story of messing or displaced people, one child is adopted, one given up for adoption, and yet through it all this remarkable family supports each other, helps each other and stay extremely close.

Some readers may find the format confusing. Although each segment is about a particular woman, it does skip back and forth in time which took some getting used to, though the dates are clearly marked. I did quickly get used to this, finding easily the connections between the characters and found this book ultimately engaging and heartfelt. The segment detailing 911, gave me chills, told from the perspective of those who risked their lives, firefighters, volunteers, gave me Goosebumps.
A different perspective from other books I have read on this subject and of course by then I knew the characters involved which made it more heartbreaking. The prose is straightforward. Not dramatic, not flowery, and this suited the story perfectly.

A generational novel, but unique in subject matter, loved the characters, they were realistically portrayed and liked the ending, it was fitting and wells one. Just a solidly written good story.

ARC from Netgalley. ( )
  Beamis12 | Sep 4, 2016 |
The book appealed to me as it is the stories of seven women from fire-fighting families. However, even though the women were linked through generations of the same family the stories were too fragmented for me. The reader has to constantly jump back and forth through various time periods – all within the same chapter and no indication of what year you have been taken to. The families are Irish and still have family in Ireland. At times I had difficulty grasping who was in Ireland and who was in the US. The story (or stories) just jumped around too much for me. I could not make an emotional connection to the characters because of this. I also feel much of the story was rushed in order to give me some background for something coming up. Sadly, I got nothing from this book. ( )
  BettyTaylor56 | Mar 31, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0544464052, Hardcover)

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. 

(retrieved from Amazon Sat, 20 Feb 2016 16:47:59 -0500)

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