Signal Fires

In the summer of 1985, tragedy strikes when three teenagers, under the influence of alcohol, experience a catastrophic car crash that claims the life of one of them. The collision shatters the lives of those involved, including Ben Wilf, a young doctor who arrives at the scene.

Years later, the Shenkmans move into the neighborhood. During a snowstorm, Ben saves their newborn’s life when the mother goes into labor at home during a snowstorm. Waldo, the Shenkmans’ intellectually gifted yet solitary son, forms a strong connection with Dr. Wilf, who is now retired and grappling with his wife’s dementia.

Opinions on this book diverge significantly among readers. While some found it deeply moving and contemplative, I found it to be a dreary and melancholic tale that unfolded at a sluggish pace. The pervasive sense of gloom throughout the narrative made it a rather disheartening read. Fortunately, its brevity was a saving grace.

One aspect that detracted from my enjoyment was the author’s tendency to shift abruptly between different points of view and timelines without clear transitions. To me, this literary device disrupted the overall flow of the story.

Incorporating the Covid-19 pandemic felt out of place and contrived, considering that the story initially begins in 1985. The decision to introduce this contemporary event seemed disconnected from the core plot.

While I thought of abandoning the book altogether, I persevered until the bitter end. Undeniably well-written, it was the thematic content itself that failed to resonate with me. 3 stars. Good but not great.

** Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a complimentary review copy of this book. The opinions are my own.

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