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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What Burns Away: A Novel

What Burns Away is a fascinating title for a book, so I picked Melissa Falcon Field's novel up this weekend and took it for a spin.

Claire and Miles have been married for some years and have a small son, Jonah. They leave behind their well-loved and renovated home in Connecticut to pursue Miles's medical career in Madison. Claire gives up her career as an atmospheric scientist to support her husband, but soon after moving she begins to feel herself falling apart under the weight of a new life. One day, while on Facebook, her old high school flame pops up having sent her a message. She is mesmerized someone who knows her past so intimately, she soon finds she is in deeper than she realizes. What is the line between loyalty and betrayal?

Dean was an older boy, more experienced in so many ways, and he was Claire's awakening at a time when she needed to rebel. Her mother had just walked out on her father, the Challenger had just exploded, and Claire was just a young teenager who didn't understand the world. When Dean comes back into her life around her 40th birthday, it happens to be deja vu -- her life is falling apart again. It's a time when she is in a mentally difficult place and she allows in this man who holds such a sway on her having been there through one of her most formative phases.

There were many times early on in this book where I just didn't like Claire. I didn't understand someone who would willingly move to pursue her husband's career and then whine about it constantly. I discovered about a third of the way through that this wasn't a character flaw, but rather a set up to a very disappointing relationship that comes out of the woodwork. Miles is a good man deep down, but he is incredibly neglectful of his wife. The scene that changed my mind was when Claire makes a huge effort to infuse romance back into their life and her husband outwardly rebuffs her to continue working. He nags her about leaving the oven on (which, frankly, I can understand since I have a roommate who does the same thing and it's a fire hazard, you idiot), but at the end of a night where she gives it her all to make this relationship work, it was just too much. Even I wanted to punch him in the face at that point.

Of course I wanted her to run from Dean. After all, she only dated him for a short period when she was in her mid-teens. I wanted to genuinely ask her if he had that great of an effect on her. I mean, obviously he did, but it seemed a bit like grasping at straws to me on her end. She wanted to be loved and recognized and discovered, that I know. But of course a man from your past who is wrestling with his own demons is bad news, right? We all know that, right? I sure hope so.

It was an interesting book, and one I kept finding myself going back to. It's a story of loyalty for sure -- where does it lie when you have a history with someone that goes beyond simply growing up together? It's a story of choices, and as I always say, choices have consequences. I only wish that things could have been easier on Claire, but then that wouldn't make for such an intriguing story, now would it?  

For purchase below.

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