Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed

Things We Set on Fire
Things We Set on Fire

Deborah Reed


Is there such a thing as a safe family secret, one that stays hidden and does no harm? Or does the unconscious knowledge of it permeate and ruin a family? On a fall day in the Florida woods, Vivien Fenton makes a decision that will forever change her family. But what she does to save her young daughters, Elin and Kate, does something far worse. An action that can’t be taken back becomes the dark and angry secret no one can confront, even as it works itself to the surface of their lives.

Things We Set on Fire is a great story about a mother who believes she is doing the right thing, but can’t see its impact until close to twenty years later. By then, Elin and Kate have grown and left their mother, motivated by a need to flee. But a call in the night pulls Vivvie back into their lives. Anger and resentment simmer on the side as the women try to make sense of new events that will change them yet again.

Although Reed’s story is about secrets, it is also about love, marriage, sibling survival and the potential for forgiveness. In telling, Reed creates a momentum by introducing events and characters in interesting small pieces, then cycling back to fill in the details. Written in an easy style, it’s the kind of book you can read quickly, but if you like understanding characters, you will miss important details if you do.

In the end, Reed’s characters understand that they must move in their own directions, creating loose but hopeful family ties. I recommend Things We Set on Fire to anyone who enjoys reading about family relationships and how they change over time.

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14 thoughts on “Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed

    1. Thanks Annie – family secrets make for an excellent story – glad to have them at a minimum in my real world, though! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  1. This sounds so intriguing…what did the mother do…what call pulled her back into their lives?? The premise has me hooked, another one on my wish list! 😀

    1. Hi Annika! Yes I had to leave out the details otherwise it would spoil the story. I liked how the author makes the reader assume one thing about the characters and their situation and then fills in what has happened over time. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. This reminds me a bit of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Even the mother’s name: Viviane (Vivi). This sounds wonderfully dramatic. I love delving into characters relationships, motivations, etc. It’s going on my wishlist. 🙂 Thanks!

    1. Oh wow I devoured Divine Secrets!! I loved that book – I may have to read it again! I also really enjoy books like this, but I often force myself to read other genres so I don’t overdo. Don’t know why because I should just read what I like, right? Thanks for reading, Sarah!

      1. I’m often torn by that question. Should I expand? Should I just read what I like? I don’t know. I guess it depends on my mood and on my reasoning. Is it because someone tried to make me feel silly for reading YA or short fiction or is it because I want to try something new? It’s a tough one.

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