Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Cassie Hanwell is a firefighter and EMT in Austin,Texas. She’s very good at her job, respected and well-liked by her crew. She has a unique ability to remain calm under the most stressful circumstances and is fearless in dangerous situations.

Her well-ordered, tightly scheduled life begins to collapse when she is confronted by the past and when her semi-estranged Mother calls, begging her to move across the country to help her, Cassie reluctantly agrees. She can no longer stay at her current job so she packs up her life and moves to the Boston area.

Life at the small town fire station Cassie transfers to is very different from her job at the progressive and brand new Austin station. The all-male crew resent her and consider her a newbie. Funds are short and much of the equipment is old or lacking. Cassie is forced to prove herself over and over, enduring the pranks and hazing along with the rookie that joins the same day as she does. Cassie takes it all in stride except for one thing – that rookie. She has shut herself off from emotions for so long, the attraction she feels toward him is confusing and upsetting. She believes that emotions, especially love, make you weak. To top it off, her Mother is a constant source of anxiety and frustration.

Things You Save in a Fire is fast moving, exciting and complex. The descriptions of the life of a firefighter (at work and at play) are very interesting and help you appreciate what a difficult but rewarding career it must be. There are funny parts – most of the hazing is done in good spirits and Cassie has a dry sense of humor. Cassie is a wonderful character, fiercely committed to her job, strong yet vulnerable. and the crew grow to respect her. There is a serious side to the book as well, how the past can shape you and overshadow your life.  It gradually becomes apparent why Cassie has shut down her emotions and built nearly impregnable walls to protect herself; breaking down these walls is difficult and plagued with setbacks. You’ll find yourself rooting for Cassie every step of the way. Highly recommended.

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