Home Fires by Judith Kirscht is a deeply emotional and dramatic story that unearths buried secrets kept by a family that spans three generations. The author unflinchingly faces the darker and often concealed sides of families and marriages and the dysfunctions that surface in a myriad of unexpected ways.
Kirscht takes the reader to sunny Goleta, California, where her protagonist, Myra, takes her morning ritual of a walk by the tide pools. Then, immediately we learn the need for the ritual. Myra is fighting to keep troubled feelings about her marriage at bay. The story takes off at breakneck speed when Myra can no longer deny her suspicions that her husband, Derek, has recently had an affair. When Myra confronts Derek, their conversation opens a Pandora’s Box of pent up feelings in her. Realizing this is not the first, nor likely will this be the last time he will cheat on her, Myra falls into a depression.
Myra finds herself on the receiving end of several differing opinions as to what she should do about Derek’s infidelity. Derek’s mother tells Myra that in Derek’s profession, that of college professor, his behavior is to be expected, but more than that, it doesn’t make their relationship less important. She tells Myra that their men will always come back home to them after they become bored with their latest dalliance.
Despite these reassurances Myra cannot bring herself to forgive Derek for what he has done. Myra decides to stay with Derek for the time being for the sake of their two teenage children, Peter and Susan.
Late one night though, dark fears arise in Myra’s mind. Accusations and suspicion abound when Myra hears her daughter cry out and catches Derek coming out of her room. He tries to convince Myra that their daughter was merely having one of her many nightmares, but she is unable to believe him.
Myra divorces Derek and begins a new life for herself. But when Derek makes a sudden reappearance, her world is turned upside down with new doubts, fears, and suspicions.
Although this novel masterfully renders the emotional hardships and tragedies that are sometimes part of dysfunctional relationships, it is not depressing to read. It is an evocative story that does not force opinions or an agenda.
Home Fires is an intelligently written, fast-paced family drama that unfolds into a suspenseful page-turner. With spot-on dialog and believable characters, Kirscht explores the complexities of human nature and family bonds that sometimes lurk beneath seemingly idyllic veneers of normalcy.