Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Review: "The Firelight Girls" by Kaya McLaren

Ethel, former camp director of Camp Firelight on Lake Wenatchee, is facing a dual loss. Not only has she lost her partner of many years, Haddie, but she is on the verge of losing the beloved camp that she has called home for decades. The camp has been plagued by financial problems for years and the national directors are unable to justify keeping the doors open any longer. Ethel invites several former camp employees, also known as The Firelight Girls, to come and help close up the camp for good before it is sold.

Answering the request for volunteers is Shannon, a teacher who has grown weary of the restricted system that she is teaching in and is longing for a fresh start, Laura, who watched her last child depart for college recently and is struggling to reconnect with her distant husband, and Ruby, who committed a great wrong against Ethel many years ago and is hoping to make things right between them. When these four very different women find a runaway teen hiding in the cabins they decide that some things are worth fighting for and they attempt to save their beloved camp.

The Firelight Girls tells an important story. The one thing that unites these four women is their various experiences at Camp Firelight. The Firelight Girls reminds us that the experiences that we have at camp, and the things that we learn, are important, and those experiences continue to shape us even later on in life. Anyone who has been to camp can attest to the fact that camp is a unique experience that shapes many aspects of our adulthood. I personally went to camp for a week every summer for several years as a child. I made life long friends, one whom I see at least yearly still. I wrote countless letters to the friends that I met there during the school year. I thought about camp when I wasn't there. I learned a lot about myself as a person while I was there. Kaya McLaren has created a wonderful camp in The Firelight Girls that is bound to evoke pleasant memories for many.

The stories of each individual person- Ethel, Shannon, Laura, Ruby and Amber- were all incredibly interesting and well done. There are flashbacks and backgrounds for each character that helped us to understand who they are as people and how camp and their life experiences affected them. I especially loved the story of Ethel and Ruby. The history between them was fascinating and the flashbacks to their camp days were very well done. My one complaint would be that there was a lot going on in the book and often it was hard to keep track of all of the characters. Between flashbacks, modern day background stories, and trying to save the camp, there was a lot going on. I may have found it a little easier to keep track of everything if there were less characters with a more in-depth focus on each.

Reading The Firelight Girls was a pleasure. The story was enjoyable to read and the setting evoked some very positive memories and feelings for me personally. I enjoyed getting to know all of the characters and their stories. While there was nothing earth-shattering about the plot it was thoroughly enjoyable to read, like settling into a hot bath after a long day, and I would definitely read a book by this author again. My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a review copy of this book.

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