The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

THE ARSONIST By Sue Miller

The Arsonist by Sue MillerPublisher:  Knopf
Expected Release Date:  June 24, 2014
Pages:  320
Genre:  Contemporary Mystery/Romance

About the Book:  From the best-selling author of While I Was Gone and The Senator's Wife, a superb new novel about a family and a community tested when an arsonist begins setting fire to the homes of the summer people in a small New England town.

Troubled by the feeling that she belongs nowhere after working in East Africa for 15 years, Frankie Rowley has come home-home to the small New Hampshire town of Pomeroy and the farmhouse where her family has always summered. On her first night back, a house up the road burns to the ground. Is it an accident, or arson? Over the weeks that follow, as Frankie comes to recognize her father's slow failing and her mother's desperation, another house burns, and then another, always the homes of summer people. These frightening events, and the deep social fault lines that open in the town as a result, are observed and reported on by Bud Jacobs, a former political journalist, who has bought the local paper and moved to Pomeroy in an attempt to find a kind of home himself. As this compelling book unfolds, as Bud and Frankie begin an unexpected, passionate affair, arson upends a trusting small community where people have never before bothered to lock their doors; and Frankie and Bud bring wholly different perspectives to the questions of who truly owns the land, who belongs in the town, and how, or even whether, newcomers can make a real home there.

Wanda's Thoughts:  Several house fires within a short period of time had residents in Pomeroy, New Hampshire, fearful. The fires were started in the early morning hours and occurred in summer residences that were unoccupied – families had not yet arrived for the season. It seemed there was an arsonist in this small town.

I was immediately swept in by the promising beginning, but the storyline soon fell flat, and my expectations were not met. Unfortunately this book had little or no impact on me. 

A few positive comments – The descriptive writing was beautifully crafted and most of the characters were vibrantly drawn. My favorite characters were Alfie and Sylvia, and this part of the story did capture my attention. Alfie’s failing health and his early stages of Alzheimer’s, along with their lost love and failing marriage drew me in. Their story developed with emotion throughout, but suddenly it seemed to be dropped, and went nowhere – disappointing. 

Bud and Frankie’s romance seemed to take over the storyline and the arson fires took a back seat. There was no intrigue and very little emotion connected to the fires – little to no suspense, whatsoever. Fires started by an arsonist should have been a terrifying experience, with a crescendo of suspense, but it just didn’t happen.

And finally, the ending was disappointing– not a satisfying conclusion. I’m sorry to say, this book failed to capture my excitement. 2.5 stars
I received an ARC as a Goodreads First–Reads Winner. All opinions shared in this review are my own.

The Author:  Sue Miller (born November 29, 1943 in Chicago) is an American writer who has authored a number of best-selling novels. Her duties as a single mother left her with little time to write for many years, and as a result she did not publish her first novel until 1986, after spending almost a decade in various fellowships and teaching positions. Since then, two of her novels have been made into feature films, and her book While I Was Gone was an Oprah's Book Club pick in 2000.