Published by Mariner Books ISBN 9780544705180
Trade paperback, $14.95, 352 pages
The first Lisa Lutz's book I read was The Spellman Files, the first in a series of mysteries about a family of private investigators. There is a delightful sense of humor in these books, and if you like Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, you should give The Spellman Files a read.
The next book I read of Lutz's was The Passenger, a tense psychological thriller about a woman on the run after killing her husband. She was already on the run from something else, and when she meets a mysterious woman who saves her life, things get even more complicated. The Passenger made my list of Most Compelling Books of 2016 and I recommend it to everyone.
My friend and bookshop colleague told me I should read Lutz's 2015 novel, How To Start A Fire, and I finally got around to it. Boy, am I glad I did.
Kate and Anna are college freshman. Kate is an orphan who lives with her grandfather and hopes to take over his diner one day, living out her life in familiar surroundings. She finds things fascinating that other might not, like the ancient medical use of leeches. Anna is from a wealthy family back East, always up for an adventure and getting herself (and others) into trouble without much thought.
One night after leaving a frat party, they find a tall young woman lying drunk in the grass. They put her in a shopping cart and bring her back to their dorm. Her name is George, and she is a star athlete, very close to her dad after her mother died.
The three women become best friends, living together and planning their respective futures, which included medical school for Anna if she could get her grades up. We follow the women back and forth through the years. A tragic incident occurs that changes all of their lives and threatens their futures.
Lutz writes her characters so beautifully, and her words on the page are so stunning, I often found myself stopping and rereading them over and over, like this passage:
"Edgar had fallen in love with George's knees first, but he was also a back-of-the-neck man, a breast man, a shoulder man, even a foot man, just not in the fetish-video kind of way. An entire woman was too overwhelming. He preferred them in sections, the way one would study a map."Lutz's sense of humor is here in smaller doses as well, as when she describes Anna's mother this way:
"Her mother's full-time job for the past nine months had been planning her son's wedding. Somehow Lena Fury had managed to shove aside the mother of the bride and the bride herself to become the chief operating officer of the Fury/Wentworth nuptials."Kate, Anna and George are truly unforgettable characters, and Lutz tells their story with a compassion and clarity that resonates long after you finish their story. I highly recommend How To Start A Fire, and anything Lisa Lutz has written, in any genre.
Lisa Lutz's website is here.