The Book of Fire by Christy Lefteri [Book Review]

The Book of Fire by Christy Lefteri dives into the complex dynamics of a family dealing with trauma as they struggle to establish a sense of normalcy in the aftermath. Admittedly, the premise grabbed my interest right away, and I found the overall narrative compelling. However, there were a few aspects that kept me from really embracing this book. Learn more about the book and then read my review below.

In present-day Greece, deep in an ancient forest, lives a Irini, a musician, who teaches children to read and play music; her husband, Tasso, who paints pictures of the forest, his greatest muse; and Chara, their young daughter, whose name means joy. On the fateful day that will forever alter the trajectory of their lives, flames chase fleeing birds across the sky. The wildfire that will consume their home, and their lives as they know it, races toward them.  

In the smoldering aftermath, Irini stumbles upon the body of the man who started the fire, a land speculator who had intended only a small, controlled burn to clear forestland to build on and instead ignited a catastrophe. He is dead, although the cause is unclear, and in her anger at all he took from them, Irini makes a split-second decision that will haunt her. 

As the local police investigate the mysterious death, Tasso mourns his father, who has not been seen since before the fire. His hands were burnt in the flames, leaving him unable to paint, and he struggles to cope with the overwhelming loss of his artistic voice and his beloved forest. Only his young daughter, who wants to repair the damage that’s been done, gives him hope for the future. []

In The Book of Fire, we follow Irini, a woman who must cope with the aftermath of a devastating wildfire that decimated her mountain town in Greece. The trauma of the fire is terrifying on its own, but things become even more problematic when Irini crosses paths with the man responsible for starting the fire. As a result, she must grapple with her role in helping her family heal and confront the murky ethics of human nature.

There was a lot to enjoy about this book; however, the pacing felt more like a meditation on the aftermath of trauma than the gripping narrative I expected. And in my opinion, Christy Lefteri’s fondness for lengthy descriptions sometimes went on too long and overshadowed the plot as a result.

The Book of Fire is a compelling exploration of family, trauma, and moral dilemmas. Despite its occasional slow pacing and a penchant for excessive description, it’s a thought-provoking read. I give it three out of five stars.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for this advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.

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