How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz

how-to-start-a-fireBook Review:  How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz

College students Anna and Kate were matched as roommates, not through any carefully considered process, but because they both applied late, and everyone else was already paired up.  As luck would have it, they’re both sloppy insomniacs who hate pop music, so they get along well.  After a party one night, they find George passed out on a lawn, so they do the responsible thing — they wheel her to their dorm room in a shopping cart.  And a lifelong friendship begins.

One night, something happens that affects each of them differently.  It’s not something they talk about often.  Over the years, their lives will take them in different directions but they stay connected.   There will be rifts among them, from time to time, but they always come back together.

Apparently, I read this book when it first came out, which makes sense — Lisa Lutz is one of my Must Read Authors.  When I spotted it on the shelf, I thought I’d just missed it because 2015 was a chaotic year for me.  But then I began reading and the familiarity started setting in.  I didn’t remember how it turned out though, so I thought I must have started it and not finished it.  Nope.  I kept coming across passages that felt familiar, right up to the last page.  How did I not remember a book by Lisa Lutz???  And why didn’t I write a book review the first time?

The book jumps back and forth in time between 1989 and 2014.  The time hops provide some mystery, particularly about That Night.  And they set up several aha moments.  I found it jarring though, as well as artificial.  An aha moment should come because you, the reader, piece the clues together — not because information was withheld from you before and provided to you later.  I was interested in the characters’ journeys and it annoyed me to find out that something life-changing had happened but not know what until a flashback a few chapters later.  I’m guessing this is why the book didn’t stick with me despite the brilliant writing.  I never completely lost myself in the story because the next chapter would pick me up and place me somewhere else, with no reason why.

Individually, the chapters are exquisite.  Lutz immediately brings you into the story at that point in time and makes you feel comfortable there.  She excels at banter and there is plenty, particularly with Anna and Kate.



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