By Melissa Falcon Field
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark (6 January 2015)
Good wife, good mother. That's all Claire Spruce is trying to be, but the never-ending snow in this new town and her workaholic husband are making her crazy. Even the sweet face of her toddler son can't pull her out of the dark places in her head.
Feeling overwhelmed and alone, she reconnects with her long-lost high school boyfriend, Dean, who offers an intoxicating, reckless escape. But Dean's reappearance is not a coincidence. He wants something from Claire - and she soon finds that the cost of repaying an old favour may lead to the destruction of her entire life.
What Burns Away is a story of loyalty, family, and the consequences of the past's inevitable collision with our future.
My first reaction to What Burns Away, before I read anything other than the title, was that I loved the bright eye-catching cover. It certainly caught my attention.
What Burns Away is the compelling story of Claire's emotional and tragic teenage years and how they have shaped her adulthood - her mother's infidelity and abandonment of the family home, her father's despair and struggle to cope and her growing relationship with an older boy, Dean.
Now married with a young son and workaholic husband, Claire is lonely and in desperate need of attention. Claire's husband clearly loves her, but is so obsessed with his work that she feels neglected while he spends long hours at the office. Having given up her own work before the pregnancy and now moving to a new town, she feels that she is slowly losing her identity.
In an attempt to discover herself, she thinks back to the excitement of her youth and searches on Facebook for old friends and memories. She re-discovers Dean, her high school boyfriend. He has clearly never stopped loving her and has bought the house to which her mother fled all those years ago as it reminds him of Claire. But he is struggling financially and now wants Claire's help. On meeting Dean again after all these years, Claire starts believing that escaping her own marriage could be her salvation.
I loved the darkness underlying Claire's story, as she weaves together events from her adolescence and adulthood. Melissa Falcon Field has a wonderful way with words, as she describes Claire's emotions bubbling to the surface and events of the past.
After reading the last page of What Burns Away, I felt emotionally exhausted. The book left me thinking about ambitions and achievements in life. Should we be satisfied with what we have or always search for something more? Is it realistic to expect our childhood and adolescent ambitions to continue as we reach adulthood, even as our circumstances change?
I received an Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.