Through The Fire
by Donna Hill, contemporary (2001)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-130-8


Whoa. This book hurts bad. I can feel the pain slice right through me, and I feel for the main characters. Sometimes it feels as if the music hero Quinn Parker makes is playing in my head, and damn if it doesn't make want to cry. Donna Hill's Through The Fire is haunting and poetic and just aches with romanticism.

Unfortunately, this is, what, book three of the life story of Quinn, and you can bet I haven't read books one or two (A Private Affair and Pieces Of Dream). I can't help feeling that I am missing some big pieces of a jigsaw puzzle as I read Through The Fire, and this really distracts me from enjoying the story fully. And guess what? I went rampaging throughout town and those two books are not to be found anywhere! Ms Hill, you are cruel, I tell you.

As I've mentioned, Through The Fire is Quinn's story. He is a talented musician as well as novelist, and he has lost many people in his lives - his mother abandoned him when he was young, his beloved wife died, and his twin sister died too. When the story opens, he is a husk of his former glory, a broken man with no muse, no enthusiasm, nothing.

Rae Lindsay understands. She has lost her husband and daughter in a shootout, and sometimes she wonders why life can be meaningless and senseless that way. She meets Quinn in a supermarket, and sparks fly, but both parties are too afraid to love again and find a way to their happy ending. Rae tries to express her anguish in her poetry, while Quinn just wants to roll up and die. Between she and he though, they literally and figuratively create the most beautiful music together.

Okay, I'm not too fond of the ultra-perfect traits of these characters being beaten to me again and again with flowery adjectives. But the author has also created lovely, heartbreaking scenes here. Quinn and Rae aren't perfect characters, and they are flawed inside, so it's exasperating sometimes to see them circling each other. "Oh, go see a shrink!" I sometimes want to yell at them. But that's the beauty of it - their hesitance and reluctance just ring real. Quinn and Rae are real human beings with strengths and weaknesses like everyone else. They just look perfect. Sorry, but I am cranky about being told almost every page about how muscular he is, how sexy and gorgeous she is... oh, get on with the scene!

There is also a beautifully done subplot involving Quinn's reconciliation with his mother - the scene where he decides to quit holding in all the anger and just forgive moves me to tears. And when Rae and Quinn finally walk off into the sunset, I am glad for them, glad to share a part of their lives in a few hours of great reading.

I've been rereading the story since the first time I read it, and I admit sometimes these two speak a bit too poetically for normal people. I mean, who talks about "passing through the fire" upon bumping into each other anyway? And the instant attraction between Quinn and Rae seem forced and rather unreal, especially after Quinn's great love for his late wife that broke him this way. However, Quinn and Rae getting there is what makes this book good. The pain, the insecurity, the trust - Through The Fire is painful and beautiful to read all at once.

A surefire keeper, of course, but I can't help feeling I'm missing something in the big picture of Quinn's life.

Rating: 89


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