Monday, April 24, 2023

My Life on Fire by Cath Howe


Ren and her family come home from visiting friends to find their house is on fire. They have to move out first of all to a very uncomfortable B & B and then on to Gran’s house which is only slightly more comfortable;   Ren and brother Petie share Gran’s spare “brown” room. Mum and Dad live in the caravan on the drive and have little time for the children; they are busy working on a contract for their business and in putting in the insurance claim for the fire.    

We also get Caspar’s point of view; he is Ren’s class mate though at first don’t know her all that well.  We get to know her a little better as he has also moved house to the same area of town where Ren’s gran lives. His dad and Ren’s gran now share the school run.

Visiting artist Jake works with the children on building boxes about their lives. This is very hard for Ren; most of her possessions were also in the fire. She starts to steal things just because it gives her a thrill. This includes a replacement Sofite, a teddy bear, for Petie.

Caspar realises what has been happening when he finds the stolen items in a trunk at Gran’s house. As he tries to help Ren to put it right, Jake finds out what is happening. However, this young artist becomes complicit in covering up Ren’s crime.

All of the items are put where their owners can find them. This includes Jake’s special art pen.

Life becomes better again.  The insurance claim is accepted for the house, her parents get their contract, Gran softens and allows them one evening week to be just a family and Caspar and Ren become good friends.     

The style is a little unusual for this reader: there are two first person narratives. However, they do work well here.  

There are acknowledgments from the author and a very short author bio at the end of the novel.

The paperback book is 289 pages long with blocked text. It uses a serif font for Ren, who in fact has more of the text. Caspar has a plain font. In both cases the font is a little larger than it would be in a book published for adults.

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