Book of the Day: “Ashes of Fiery Weather” by Kathleen Donohoe
Kathleen Donohoe’s first novel, Ashes of Fiery Weather, introduces readers to the stubborn, courageous and sometimes flawed women of the Keegan/O’Reilly family. Central to the story is the evolution of firefighting, a multigenerational career that binds the family together.
Donohoe’s characters range across six generations, bound together by devotion, tradition and hardship. Each woman faces her own struggle, from Irish-born Norah, who must find a way to raise a family after her husband is killed in the line of duty, to her stubborn sister-in-law, Eileen, who fights to become one of the first female firefighters in New York City.
What makes Donohoe’s novel stand out from other family sagas is the authentic insight she brings to her work. Clearly inspired by the author’s own family history, Ashes of Fiery Weather at times feels more like a memoir than a work of fiction. The crowning achievement of the book, however, is Donohoe’s unaffected and chilling portrayal of the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center. Although readers will know what is coming, this does nothing to dim the force and shock of Donohoe’s depiction, told through the eyes of Eileen, one of the many firefighters on-site that day.
Ashes of Fiery Weather is a beautifully crafted story, one that serves not only as a homage to the legacy and traditions of New York firefighters, but also to the families who love, support and often mourn them. Donohoe has created an emotional, deeply moving work that will stay with readers long after the last page.
This article was originally published in the September 2016 issue of BookPage.