The Stars are Fire - Anita ShreveAuthor Anita Shreve is a master at penning realistic characters and delving deep into their psyches, and The Stars are Fire is a brilliant illustration of her significant talent in bringing her characters to life.

Grace Holland is a young mother of two toddlers in post World War II Maine. Her husband, Gene, has retruned from the war, but like most of the men in the neighborhood, he doesn’t speak about it much.

The story opens in the summer of 1947, where record hot temperatures and a lack of rain have residents worried as autumn arrives and the heat shows no signs of abating.

Wild fires tear across Maine, reaching their small coastal town as Grace and and her closest friend and neighbor Rosie must save themselves and their children.

Cowering in the frigid waters of the Atlantic all night saves the women and their children, but the event will mark their lives forever in far-reaching ways they are unable to predict.

Shreve is masterful at drilling down into a marriage, and particularly one of mid-century America where women had little power. Grace fights to defend her family in increasingly difficult circumstances, and this beautiful depiction of one woman’s love, strength, courage and enduring hope had me rapidly turning the pages as we follow along on Grace’s impressive journey.

When I picked up this book, I did not realize it was Shreve’s last. Sadly, she passed away earlier this year. But her stories of ordinary, independent women often faced with difficult choices are always compelling, and this novel may be one of her best.