I am writing a book review of After the Fire by Robin Gaby Fisher. Robin tells a true story about an unusual friendship. After the fire that burned their dormitory, two friends stayed with each other throughout their whole recovery. Two young boys, freshman in college, were burned in an arson fire in their room. The story of their recovery reveals how heartbreaking and emotional a tragedy can be to the patients and their family.
I picked this book up at the library while browsing through the fiction section. After reading the title, I was intrigued, and the summary sounded interesting, so I decided to check it out of the library.
Robin Gaby Fisher is a nationally acclaimed news feature writer with the Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey. Star-Ledger editor, Fran Dauth, asked Robin to write this story of two students who were victims of the Seton Hall fire.
SYNOPSIS OF AFTER THE FIRE
After the Fire is a true story about two friends who survived a tragedy. They were victims in an arson fire set in the dormitory building at Seton Hall where they were living. Being randomly selected as roommates, Shawn Simons and Alvaro Llanos immediately became best friends. A few months into their freshman year, in January, someone set a fire in the building where they were living. That one instant changed their lives forever.
Each of the main characters in the book gave their perspective of the fire. Shawn, Alvaro, and Angie, Alvaro’s girlfriend, each told their story of what happened that morning. They escaped the fire separately and had their different recollections of the events.
Interspersed within the story of their recovery is updates on the investigation of the cause of the fire, which revealed that it was arson. It is important to know that this fire was not an accident.
One section of the book shocked me. Alvaro, being awake and able to talk, revealed what he remembered about the fire. It is subtle, but it is one moment that startled me. I stopped reading to think about it what I just read. It saddened me too, thinking about how the Alvaro, Shawn, and Angie reacted when they heard each other’s stories.
Alvaro says, “The first floor was clear of smoke, and he could see students staring at him as he ran, ran as fast as he could, toward the front doors. Through the blur of his delirium, he could still make out the expressions of horror on their faces.” (p. 143).
My favorite part of the book was when Alvaro finally showed signs of waking up from his coma and began to respond to people. (p. 125-126). Shawn had been visiting Alvaro in the hospital for a while. Consequently, every day was the same with Alvaro being in a comatose state. Alvaro heard what people were saying about him, but couldn’t respond. On this day, however, Alvaro blinked when Shawn talked to him. With Alvaro being on the verge of death and not much hope of surviving, the doctors and nurses expected he would never leave the hospital. This day changed everything around. Now everyone had hope and went full speed ahead to getting him better and discharged from the hospital.
The author revealed the character’s emotions through each step of the recovery, which I liked. If we haven’t been through the same experience, we don’t know how people feel. Sometimes people feel guilt after a tragic event. Could I have done something different to prevent this from happening? And then there is always, why did this have to happen? There is a lot to think about as I read the story.
Overall, I thought this book was good. I’m glad I read it, and it didn’t take long.