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Ashes of Fiery Weather

Kathleen Donohoe


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Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (4/18/2017)


A debut novel about the passionate loves and tragic losses of six generations of women in a family of firefighters, spanning from famine-era Ireland to Brooklyn a decade after 9/11

"There isn’t anything in the world that hurts like a burn.” No one knows the pain of a fire more than the women of the Keegan/O’Reilly clan. Kathleen Donohoe’s stunning debut novel brings to life seven unsentimental, wry, and evocative portraits of women from a family of firefighters. 
When we meet Norah — the first member of her family to move from Ireland to New York — she is a mother of three, contemplating her husband’s casket as his men give him a full fireman’s funeral, and faced with a terrible choice. Norah's mother-in-law, Delia, is stoic and self-preserving. Her early losses have made her keep her children close and her secrets closer. Eileen, Delia’s daughter, adopted from Ireland and tough-as-nails, yet desperate for a sense of belonging, is one of the first women firefighters in New York. It is through her eyes that we experience 9/11, blindsided by the events of that terrible day along with her. 
Poignant, wise, and immersive, Ashes of Fiery Weather is a tour de force in the tradition of Let the Great World Spin, one that explores the emotional wounds and ultimate resilience of those drawn to fire, as well as the many ways we search for each other, and the many ways we hope to be rescued. 

Praise For Ashes of Fiery Weather

One of Brooklyn Magazine's "100 Books to Read for the Rest of 2016"
One of BookRiot's “100 Must-Read New York City Novels”

“Ambitious…unexpectedly revelatory...Ashes of Fiery Weather is worth every moment…To try and summarize the plot is to minimize its sweep. Suffice it to say that these women's lives will stick with you, as will the insights gained into the firefighters' tight community. I'll be waiting for Donohoe's second novel.”MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE

“Explosive [and] expansive… There is a great deal of world and family history behind each individual's actions. . . . It's hard to imagine this expansive, accessible book won't find its audience, especially since it's coming out on the eve of the fifteenth anniversary of 9-11. The writing is at times beautifully spare, and Donohoe has a knack for capturing heartbreaking moments with a gripping simplicity.” —THE VILLAGE VOICE

"A stunning and intimate portrayal of four generations of New York City firefighters that puts women at the forefront… Absorbing and compelling, Kathleen Donohoe manages to tell a decades-spanning story of firefighters that also puts female characters at the forefront… Donohoe’s opening section is an emotional tour-de-force, exploring beautifully this most harrowing moment of Norah’s life, as well as the circumstances that led to her emigration… Ashes of Fiery Weather also manages to capture the poetry of daily Irish Catholic life… Extraordinary. Ashes of a Fiery Weather somehow manages to be part Alice McDermott, part Denis Leary, and ultimately a worthy addition to the canon of great New York ethnic novels." IRISH AMERICA

“Each element—Donohoe’s attention to women’s experiences, to the momentous events that become historical markers, to place (Brooklyn) and profession (firefighting), to Irishness in its many variations, to inheritance and loss, to the bleeding out of history—makes a constellated portrait of a place and time and position in the world.” BROOKLYN MAGAZINE

“Her characters navigate turbulent historical events, including the Irish potato famine and the devastation of 9/11, and Donohoe vividly brings each period to life. But the novel's special strength lies in the quiet moments between characters: intimate exchanges and daily decisions that often ignite far-reaching changes in their lives. Family, love and legacy are complicated entities, and Donohoe skillfully portrays her protagonists' struggle with each.” SHELF AWARENESS

“A beautiful family tale built as much out of disconnection and alienation as out of intimacy and solidarity.” BLOOM

"Kathleen Donohoe’s stunning debut novel brings to life seven unsentimental, wry, and evocative portraits of women from a family of firefighters."​ —THE MISSTERY

" of Donohoe’s many accomplishments in this excellent book is that she brings these Brooklyn Irish firefighters -- male and female, by the way -- into the 21st century.” —IRISH CENTRAL

“Donohoe’s debut novel was one of our favorite books of August, what with its feats of firefighting daring-do and emotionally complex characters that we grow to know over the novel’s decades-long span.” READ IT FORWARD
[A] big, rich, powerful novel . . . You’ll be a long time forgetting it. And glad of that.” SULLIVAN COUNTY DEMOCRAT
“What makes Donohoe’s novel stand out from other family sagas is the authentic insight she brings to her work. . . The crowning achievement of the book, however, is Donohoe’s unaffected and chilling portrayal of the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center. Although readers will know what is coming, this does nothing to dim the force and shock of Donohoe’s depiction, told through the eyes of Eileen, one of the many firefighters on-site that day. . . . Donohoe has created an emotional, deeply moving work that will stay with readers long after the last page.” BOOKPAGE
“I have immense love for this debut novel about six generations of women and their connection to the New York Fire Dept. The writing is lush and lovely even and most especially when the story is at its harshest and most unforgiving.” —EARLYWORD
“Donohoe takes us through emotional turmoil, tenderness, and tearful realities. A wonderful storyteller, the century-plus the book spans is a fascinating and accessible glimpse into a life many of us don’t recognize.” —READ IT FORWARD

“Donohoe presents readers with richly imagined portraits of seven women who are linked with the Keegans and O’Reillys by blood, marriage, or love…Donohoe’s writing is both beautiful and riveting…A worthy novel.” —HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY
“Breathtaking…The child of a family of Irish-American firefighters, the author shows how tradition, sorrow, and love of the old country bind these lives together. Her depiction of 9/11 is by far one of the best fiction accounts of that terrible day in which 343 members of the FDNY perished… Her novel is a moving testament to the men and women who risk their lives every day.” —PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY

“One of my favorite reads of the year! This is a gorgeously written story about what it means to have men and women in your family that put their lives on the line everyday as firefighters.  It's about the incredibly rich history of New York and its deep relationship with Ireland as seen through the eyes of the Irish who for generations have crossed the ocean to start over in America.  It is about the people we love, the choices we make and the strength of the blood ties of family.  An absolute gem!” —Mary Coe, FAIRFIELD WOODS LIBRARY (CT)
“No synopses can do this book justice. You simply must read it. This debut from Donohoe is absolutely stunning and for everyone who remembers that day, you understand why that cover brings chills to my body.” —Beth Wasko, BOOKTRIB

“This is the sort of family saga that you just sink into and give yourself over to. The writing is lush and lovely even and most especially when the story is at its harshest and most unforgiving.” —DARIEN COUNTY LIBRARY

“[Ashes of Fiery Weather is] riveting…and…entrancing….Adding to the book’s power are the authentic Brooklyn details, making the borough a compelling character in itself. That the author grew up in such a family makes her work that much more realized with strongly developed supporting characters, gritty realism, and a non-Hollywood-style ending… Admirers of Pete Hamill and Kate Atkinson will appreciate this gripping and intimate novel, as well as those who want an absorbing multigenerational read.” —LIBRARY JOURNAL, starred review
"Kathleen Donohoe must have had to assimilate the entire postwar history of the Irish on both sides of the Atlantic to produce such a remarkably authentic portrait, rich in memorable detail, with characters that come so vividly to life one forgets one is reading a novel. The anthropological work here is extraordinary. For a book to cover wide swathes of time and still feel vital at every point on its timeline is an impressive feat. Anyone Irish will face an uncanny recognition in these pages; everyone else will be enthralled meeting such captivating figures. Prepare to settle in." —Matthew Thomas, New York Times bestselling author of We Are Not Ourselves

"Ashes of Fiery Weather is a beautifully wrought novel. Intimate, gripping, heart-wrenching and brave, this portrait of the lives of the women behind New York City’s firefighters is a not–to-be-missed treat." —Alison Smith, author of Name All the Animals
"In this beautifully crafted novel, Ashes of Fiery Weather, Kathleen Donohoe traces the intersecting lives of an Irish-American family, four generations of Brooklyn firefighters,  their roots in the Famine. The story explores the ordinary ways, and sometimes startling and hidden ways, too, in which members of the family are connected to each other, across time and across continents, Ireland and America. Journeys out often disguise an unknowing desire to return. Wonderfully, the novel recalls us to our own lives to ask who it is we’re not seeing, what stranger in our lives is a familiar. This is a novel of illuminations, of losses restored, of lives unexpectedly redeemed." —Kathleen Hill, author of Who Occupies This House

“Though Ashes of Fiery Weather spans more than a century and two continents, there is an intimacy shared by the many women we meet in these pages, and that bond is the life force of the book. With Alice McDermott’s eye for the nuances of Irish Catholic family life, and Dennis Lehane’s gritty realism, Donohoe welcomes us into a world not many get to see.” —Mary Beth Keane, author of Fever

“Kathleen Donohoe is so natural a story-teller, one hardly realizes the enormity of her tale until it's done and one looks up, surprised with satisfaction. Here is a rich, full novel that rolls like a song.” —Roger Rosenblatt, author of Making Toast

"A tale of New York that transcends New York, Kathleen Donohoe's Ashes of Fiery Weather is a riveting, finely crafted combination of gritty realism and graceful, poignant prose. With insight, compassion and unblinking honesty, she gives us the extraordinary lives of ordinary people.  A star is born." —Peter Quinn, author of Banished Children of Eve

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780544464056, 416pp.

Publication Date: August 30, 2016

About the Author

KATHLEEN DONOHOE is the author of Ashes of Fiery Weather. Her stories and essays have appeared in The Recorder, New York Stories, and Washington Square Review. She serves on the Board of Irish American Writers & Artists. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son.