Not a How-to Manual

Three women meet in college and stay friends for the next twenty years. That’s a plot line that could go a bunch of predictable ways:  toward disintegration of the friendships as they grow apart OR toward goofy, happy reunions at a spa every year. Happily, author Lisa Lutz has departed from the predictable to create an extraordinary story out of somewhat standard ingredients.

Here’s some advice: don’t sweat the timeline of events as you read How To Start a Fire.  Yes, it’s helpful to notice that the novel begins in 2005 and then you turn the page and whoops! you’ve flashed back to 1993.  When you keep going and the plot keeps jerking around between the past and the present until you’re thinking, “Wait, what? What year are we in again?” the best way is straight forward. Do not make yourself crazy flipping back and forth, trying to make sense of it. Accept that this is the way Lutz has chosen to tell the story, and move on. It will all become clear in time.

Unpredictable. Didn’t I tell you? It’s what makes this novel great.

Also, the characters, especially the main trio: Kate, Anna, and George. Lutz pulls just enough out of their pasts to round them out, and their interactions together are riveting. Finally, it’s no surprise to learn that there’s a recurring fire motif throughout the story.

You won’t learn how to start a fire, but you’ll read a terrific novel.

Other books about friends:

Bennington Girls Are Easy by Charlotte Silver

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The Appetites of Girls by Pamela Moses

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