You know the books whose covers you recognize because they pop up everywhere for a period of time? Well, Katherine Center’s How to Walk Away was that book for me. When it came out, it seemed like everyone I followed was posting about it—raving about it! I wanted to read it but seeing as I was in the midst of finishing law school, I didn’t get to it. This summer, while studying for the bar exam, I noticed Center’s new book, Things You Save in a Fire, was a Book of the Month pick. I knew I wouldn’t get to it immediately but chose it anyway. Well, three months later and after receiving news I passed the bar exam, I got through this book and I’m so glad I did.
For the month of October, I am doing a Gilmoreathon, where I read books based on @gilmoreathon’s prompts over on Instagram. I decided to form an aggressive TBR, and I knew I may end up rolling over a book or two, at most, to November. Things You Save in a Fire was my pick for “complicated mother/daughter relationship” and it delivered. Cassie reminded me of, in a lot of ways, my best friend. She’s tough, tenacious, and strives to be the best at everything she does. The piece about forgiveness and Cassie’s struggle with forgiving people reminded me of … myself. An old favorite line of mine from The Hills (yes, I watched this epic teen drama) was when LC says to Heidi, “I want to forgive you and I want to forget you.” My sister used to tell me that was no way to treat people and that forgiveness, or lack thereof, only hurts the person who won’t forgive. Cassie’s story reminded me that a failure to forgive often weaves a web of consequences we don’t intend.
When we fail to forgive some people, we end up closing ourselves off to more people than just those we won’t forgive. Center tells Cassie’s story so well that I didn’t even notice how quickly I flew through it. The only thing I kept thinking was that I didn’t want it to end and that I wanted to know more. The novel is a light, easy read that explores deep and complex topics with grace. Center also writes with a conversational, engaged tone that acknowledges that time has passed since the events in the story, which makes the end of the story suspenseful because you assume she survived, but as for others, it’s unclear.
When we read “light” books, it’s easy to blow them off as simply light and therefore lacking depth. In most contexts, you know what you’re getting, and you don’t expect it to penetrate deep into a thoughtful tale of some universal truth. However, sometimes books surprise you. Some people said that Things You Save in a Fire felt too predictable but based upon my understanding of the story when I started, I disagree. There were aspects of the story I did not expect, so by this point alone, the book was not predictable for me. Additionally, I am someone who wants to know where the story will go, but I’m not necessarily someone who tries to jump the gun and figure out exactly where the author is going. I suppose this is a holdover from my appreciation of Hallmark Christmas movies. Do I know what’s going to happen every single time? Yes. Do I still watch movie after movie with glee? Yes. So, unless I’m reading a thriller or mystery where the point is to guess what happened, I don’t mind giving the author control as they lead me through their story. Frankly, there are a lot of other things that ruin a book for me that I just don’t concern myself with predictability. So, all of this to say, I did not find this book predictable and even if I had, I think it’s still worth the read because it’s far more endearing than I expected.
I will say this was a 3.75 star read for me because the last 20 pages fell just short of four stars. I’m someone who struggles to rank books because I like to rank them within the genre. A contemporary lit four-star read isn’t necessarily equivalent to a light romance four-star read. still, the issue here was the last bit just felt too neat. It felt a little like the author ended up trying to ensure we got the book’s message, which started to grate on me. Additionally, I like Epilogues when they are used effectively. While I enjoyed the information shared in this Epilogue, I had a moment of “this should have ended ten pages ago,” which usually indicates to me that it wasn’t necessary. Finally, some of the dialogue toward the end felt too plot-driven and read a bit unnaturally. I’m a stickler for natural dialogue and some of the exchanges as the book went on felt forced. Overall, I still enjoyed this read and recommend it!