Ashes of Fiery Weather

The O'Reilly men have been firefighters in Brooklyn, N.Y., for generations, long before the city's firehouses came under the jurisdiction of the FDNY. As the men pull 24-hour shifts or roll out of bed to answer fire calls in the wee hours, the O'Reilly women--mothers, wives, sisters, daughters--must learn the constant, often bitter lessons of grief and sacrifice. Kathleen Donohoe, a descendant of Irish immigrant firefighters, constructs a sweeping multigenerational story of love, dedication and loss in her debut novel, Ashes of Fiery Weather.

Donohoe's narrative begins with Norah, a young Irish woman who immigrates to the U.S. in her sister's place, ending up as firefighter Sean O'Reilly's wife, and later his widow. Through the intertwined stories of Norah, her daughter Maggie, Sean's mother Delia and four other women, Donohoe explores the difficult legacy of firefighting as a job, a calling and a tightly knit community. Her characters navigate turbulent historical events, including the Irish potato famine and the devastation of 9/11, and Donohoe vividly brings each period to life. But the novel's special strength lies in the quiet moments between characters: intimate exchanges and daily decisions that often ignite far-reaching changes in their lives.

Family, love and legacy are complicated entities, and Donohoe skillfully portrays her protagonists' struggle with each. Her characters vary widely in age and temperament, but they must reckon with their fierce (if complicated) loyalty to the firefighting community, and how their choices will affect those they hold dear. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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