House on Fire by Bonnie Kistler
Kindle Edition, 416 pages
Expected publication: March 12th 2019 by Atria Books
About the Book:
Divorce lawyer Leigh Huyett knows all too well that most second marriages are doomed to fail. But five years in, she and Pete Conley have a perfectly blended family of her children and his. To celebrate their anniversary, they grab some precious moments of alone time and leave Pete’s son Kip, a high school senior, in charge of Leigh’s fourteen-year-old daughter Chrissy at their home. Driving back on a rainy Friday night, their cell phones start ringing. After a raucous party celebrating his college acceptance to Duke and his upcoming birthday, Kip was arrested for drunk driving after his truck crashed into a tree. And he wasn’t alone—Chrissy was with him. Twelve hours later, Chrissy is dead and Kip is charged with manslaughter. Kip has always been a notorious troublemaker, but he’s also a star student with a dazzling future ahead of him. At first, Leigh does her best to rally behind Pete and help Kip through his ordeal. Until he changes his story, and claims that he wasn’t driving after all—Chrissy was, and he swears there is a witness. Leigh is stunned that he would lie about such a thing, while Pete clutches onto the story as the last, best hope to save his son, throwing his energy and money into finding this elusive witness. As they hurtle toward Kip’s trial date, husband and wife are torn between loyalty to their children and to each other, while the mystery of what really happened that night intensifies.
There wasn't even a name for what Leigh was now. If she lost her husband, she’d be a widow. Her parents, an orphan. But what did you call a mother who lost her child? There was no word for what she was. It was unthinkable and thus unnameable.
Bonnie Kistler manages to create a world that is immersive, introspective and nuanced without getting bogged down in the details over heavy-handed themes. She draws you in and holds you, with a world that feels authentic and fascinating, tightly coiled until it springs on you and forces you to question whether people really can start fresh. This is Kistler's debut offering, she can craft a tale.
The characters were brilliantly crafted, and I felt that I knew most everyone in the story on a deep level. The narrative style allows you to weave in and out of the psyches of even the most opposed characters, and I felt deep sympathies for each character at one time or another, often simultaneously. There were very few points when I felt any characters lacked adequate depth. The drama was captivating. The web of events and histories created one of the most engrossing stories I have read in a long time.
I can't say enough good things about this book. There were so many different layers to the story and I found myself thinking about the characters and the choices they made for days after I finished reading the book. It would make for a good book club selection because people are going to have strong opinions about some of the things that were brought up in this book. This is a debut from Bonnie Kistler and I'm looking forward to her next novel.
Thank you NetGalley, Atria Books and Bonnie Kistler for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an impartial review; all opinions are my own.
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