Mrs. Mike & The Stars Are Fire
On August 9, 2023, a horrible fire, pushed by fierce winds, rolled over the town of Lahaina, on the island of Maui in Hawaii.
The devastation is unimaginable. Buildings and cars burned to ashes. Scorched earth. Nothing standing. People were burned by the fast-moving fire, and the death toll isn't even known yet.
Anyone with a heart is grieving for the death and destruction so evident in the pictures and the eyewitness accounts. Businesses, homes, careers, animals, and families have been destroyed.
People who have been touched by this tragedy will probably want to avoid reading about fires that sweep over towns destroying property and taking lives. Here are two books that might be too painful to read after the tragedy in Maui.
As I watched the news coverage, I had a vivid flashback to a scene in a book I read years and years ago when I was a teenager, but the memory stuck with me. The book was Mrs. Mike.
Written by Benedict and Nancy Freedman, Mrs. Mike told the story of a young woman with pleurisy who falls in love with a Canadian Mountie named Mike Flannigan. They marry, and she goes with him to the wildest parts of Canada. The book was published in 1947 and was supposedly based on the true story of Katherine Mary O'Fallon.
Mrs. Mike had tremendous popular success and was actually serialized in The Atlantic Monthly, published in 27 countries, and made into an Armed Services Edition. Later, many of the facts were disputed, so it's unclear how "true" Katherine Mary O'Fallon's story is.
When I read Mrs. Mike, though, I was young, and I didn't know anything about disputed facts. I just fell in love with the story. Fifty years later, I remembered the terrifying scene where a wildfire rushes toward the town and everyone runs to the water to save themselves. I was terrified while reading that, imagining what it would feel like to stand in frigid water, pregnant, trying to escape the flames that burn me alive.
The Stars Are Fire
A few months ago, I read an Anita Shreve novel titled The Stars Are Fire.
The Stars Are Fire is reminiscent of the episode in Mrs. Mike, because it, too, showcases a pregnant woman rushing with her other young children to shelter in ice-cold water to save themselves from a raging fire.
Shreve's novel is based on the 1947 drought and subsequent wildfires that wiped out more than a quarter million acres of forest and nine whole towns along the Northeast Coast. The decimation of the coastal towns left residents without homes and without livelihoods, destitute and emotionally scarred.
The plot focuses on how one woman tries to rebuild her life, dealing with a missing husband, a loss of income, and a home that is now nonexistent, burned to nothing but ashes.
Sadly, the struggles presented in The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve will be eerily similar to some of the stories of the Maui survivors. As good as a story as it is, it might be too painful to read after the horrible tragedy in Hawaii.
Wordless after the horrible fire in Maui
Here's the truth.
I debated about including a quote about surviving a fire, an upbeat phrase intended to give hope or encouragement.
But all that seems too glib.
No words come to mind to effectively conclude this article. The two books I've talked about here gave me a tiny glimpse into the fear and pain that comes from an event like this, but reading about an event - as good as it is - is not the same thing as experiencing it firsthand.
So if you're not from Maui, Hawaii, and you want to know what a fire rushing toward you feels like, read Mrs. Mike or The Stars Are Fire.
But if you're one of the thousands of people who have been drastically affected by the tragic fire that destroyed Lahaina, avoid these two novels because they're too painful to relive.
And know that prayers for strength and courage are headed your way from millions of people throughout the world.
Buy Mrs. Mike from Bookshop.org (supports independent bookstores)
Buy Mrs. Mike from Barnes and Noble (brick and mortar & online retailer)
Buy Mrs. Mike from Better World Books (used books that donate a book from every sale to literacy efforts)
Buy The Stars Are Fire From Amazon (online retailer)
Buy The Stars Are Fire From Bookshop.org (supports independent bookstores)
Buy The Stars Are Fire from Barnes and Noble (brick and mortar & online retailer)
Buy The Stars Are Fire from Better World Books (used books that donate a book from every sale to literacy efforts)