The Firelight Girls
By: Kaya McLaren
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: 10/14/2014
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
The summers you spend at summer camp are indelibly etched on your heart. But what happens when the camp you love is about to close? Can you ever really say goodbye to the place that made you who you are?
These are the questions that plagues Ethel, the seventy-year-old former camp director who is nursing a broken heart after losing the love of her life as she now faces the impending closure of the camp on Lake Wenatchee that she called home.
It's also a question that inspires change in forty-year-old Shannon, who spent the summers of her youth as a vibrant, capable camp counselor and is now directionless after watching her career implode. And there's Laura, who has lost all intimacy with her husband and doesn't know if she can save what seems to be gone forever.
Finally, Ruby, who betrayed Ethel years ago and hasn't spoken to her since, hopes this will be her chance to amke amends. When the four women learn that a homeless teen has been hiding at camp, they realize camp is something much more immediate for all: survival.
And so the three generations of women search for a way to save the place that saved them all, finding in the process a way back to themselves and each other in The Firelight Girls, Kaya McLaren's novel of love and loss, heartbreak and healing.
A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Kaya McLaren's The Firelight Girls, is a heartwarming light read, of five female friends, across three generations with cherished memories to last a life time.
A group of women known as The Firelight Girls,have fond memories and ties to Camp Firelight, on Lake Wenatchee a summer camp for girls of all ages. When the camp is about to close down, Ethel, the camp "manager", for over fifty years, decides she needs some help to clean the place up. She invites the Firelight Girls to come and say their farewells, to the place they all loved and prepare for its sale.
Ethel is sad and overwhelmed, as she has much to do, so enlists the help of three other former campers, Laura, Ruby and Shannon. While the four of them continue to mourn the loss of their camp, Ethel is still mourning the loss of the love of her life, Haddie, her partner. (carrying her urn of ashes everywhere and continues talking to her).
Two women suffering from midlife crisis: Forty-year-old Shannon, spent the summers of her youth as a vibrant, camp counselor and is now directionless after watching her career implode. Laura, has lost all intimacy with her husband and doesn't know if she can save what seems to be gone forever. Ruby, betrayed Ethel years ago and hasn't spoken to her since, hopes this will be her chance to make amends.
Amber, a teenage girl (a new addition) to the group, with a drug-addicted, and neglectful mother, is staying in one of the cabins, unsure how she can make it there in the winter. The ladies take her under their wind, making for a nice group of women covering multi-generations. The women bond, face their past, and make plans for their future, together.
I especially enjoyed the characters, Ethel and Amber. I agree with one of the other reviewers – would have enjoyed the story more focused on these two characters, and the other two as more of secondary characters.
From the 50’s to 2013, so many stories from an array of different women and a Lodge which had always been the camp with cedar, cabins, fireplaces, dirt, swimming, proms, hiking, lunches, canoes, fishing, kayaks, food, friendship, and many memorable stories from the heart.
The author offers specials insights into the work of summer camps, having spent her summers in college working at Camp Zanika on Lake Wenatchee in Washington State, and fifteen years later returned to run the teen programs for two more, as well as a teacher. I also enjoyed the inspiration for the book, a group of women FOZ (Friends of Zanika), who saved Camp Zanika when it was going under, rolling up their sleeves with many powerful stories and reflections.
The Firelight Girls reminds me a little of Susan Wiggs’ Lakeshore Chronicles Series (which I loved, as read them all) surrounding Willow Lake, camps, and lodges, as well as author, Emilie Richards and her stories of women. Fans of women’s fiction, female friendship, and summer camp stories will enjoy this insightful story of love, loss, regret, reinvention, and forgiveness.