Blog | Book Review | Bonfire
Book Summary: When a new case takes environmental lawyer Abby Williams back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life she has created for herself begins to crack after finding strange connections to a decade-old scandal.
When I started writing this review, I was first going to talk about how the structure and pacing is a little off, with a slow start that builds and builds and builds to an extremely second act only to be let down by what feels like a rushed, too-neat ending.
I then realised that these are the exact same issues I had with Wonder Woman, although Abby Williams is a lot more like Jessica Jones than Diana Prince. Considering this book was written by Krysten Ritter, who plays Jessica Jones, that might seem a little too easy a comparison, but it's deserved.
Abby Williams, like Jessica Jones, has a lot of layers that slowly get peeled away through the course of the story as her past slowly seeps in through the cracks in her personality, exposing her vulnerabilities. She is most definitely not an Amazonian warrior princess.
The relation between Williams and Jones is only superficial, sharing certain character traits such as what sometimes seems like an alcohol addiction, but I think it's clear that the role definitely had some influence in Ritter's writing, and I could easily see her playing Abby if this story were to ever be made into a television show or movie.
Going back to the plot, I think that the reason everything starts out so slow is that Ritter is trying a little too much all at once. There are a lot of characters introduced at the same time and I didn't manage to get them sorted in my head until halfway through the book.
From a character point of view of someone returning to their hometown after years away, it certainly feels authentic (and something I can relate to), but first-time readers may find it difficult to keep track of who everyone is and what their relation is to Abby - both in the present and during her youth.
The middle section really shines as you'll (hopefully) be more familiar with all the characters, and the story really starts steaming forward, with Abby questioning her own memories about the disappearance of a fellow student from her school days. It's not particularly complex, but thanks to the story being told so well from Abby's perspective, the reader will always have creeping elements of doubt in their mind, just as she does.
The ending is unfortunately something of a disappointment, with certain moments feeling a little convenient and the whole story centred around Abby is resolved almost perfectly, even if her reason for returning home is left open-ended. This doesn't feel like loose end though, as the story never really pays too much attention to it. The problem is that Abby's issues are dealt with so perfectly that it just doesn't feel as cathartic as the book thinks it does.
Bonfire is a solid debut novel that is only really let down by an abruptly neat ending that ties up all the loose ends a little too easily. There's a lot to enjoy here though, and I look forward to whatever Krysten Ritter writes next - hopefully it will be something a little longer with an ending that lives up to the plot.