In the bestselling tradition of Jodi Picoult and Celeste Ng, a tightly wound and suspenseful novel about a blended family in crisis after a drunk driving accident leaves the daughter of one parent dead—and the son of the other parent charged with manslaughter.
Divorce lawyer Leigh Huyett knows all too well that most second marriages are doomed to fail. But five years in, she and Pete Conley have a perfectly blended family of her children and his. To celebrate their anniversary, they grab some precious moments of alone time and leave Pete’s son Kip, a high school senior, in charge of Leigh’s fourteen-year-old daughter Chrissy at their home.
Driving back on a rainy Friday night, their cell phones start ringing. After a raucous party celebrating his college acceptance to Duke and his upcoming birthday, Kip was arrested for drunk driving after his truck crashed into a tree. And he wasn’t alone—Chrissy was with him.
Twelve hours later, Chrissy is dead and Kip is charged with manslaughter.
Kip has always been a notorious troublemaker, but he’s also a star student with a dazzling future ahead of him. At first, Leigh does her best to rally behind Pete and help Kip through his ordeal. Until he changes his story, and claims that he wasn’t driving after all—Chrissy was, and he swears there is a witness.
Leigh is stunned that he would lie about such a thing, while Pete clutches onto the story as the last, best hope to save his son, throwing his energy and money into finding this elusive witness. As they hurtle toward Kip’s trial date, husband and wife are torn between loyalty to their children and to each other, while the mystery of what really happened that night intensifies.
This richly conceived and tightly plotted psychological exploration of family and tragedy will have you racing toward its shocking and thought-provoking conclusion.
Fantastic and engaging story of the aftermath of a tragic accident. Very insightful and sharp writing. This story would make a great movie!
This heartfelt and emotional story starts off with an almost unbearable tragedy. Two young people returning home from a party are involved in a relatively minor accident. But one of the people in the car dies. It was Chrissy, the stepsister of the alleged driver, Kip. How can their parents deal with this? When Kip is charged with manslaughter as a result, the family is broken apart. The author then raises the question: is there such a thing as a “good” lie?
“They had to start planning how to deal with this. It was what families did when an outside threat loomed. They closed ranks and worked together to shield themselves from it.”
But the parents, Peter and Leigh, differ on what it means to deal with Kip’s arrest and the death of young, beautiful Chrissy. I loved the questions raised by this thought-provoking book especially in light of the fact that Leigh is an experienced divorce attorney who has seen her share of broken families. Not only did she think that she and Pete had the perfect blended family, she thought she knew what it took to make a second marriage work.
“He picked sides last night, and so did she. The trouble was, neither of them had picked each other.”
Family loyalties are divided as Peter and Leigh must wrestle with their grief over losing Chrissy, but with the harsh reality of Kip’s arrest. Leigh does not believe her stepson’s account of the night of the accident. But Pete is determined to stick by his son and will do whatever is takes to keep from losing his promising future.
“I want him to get off.” He studied the label on his beer bottle. “Don’t you?”
“Of course I do. But not if it takes a lie.”
“I guess that’s where we differ.” He got to his feet. “I want him to get off no matter what.”
I was fascinated by Leigh’s clients and the way all of the threads of the plot came together in the end. While ‘House on Fire’ is a sharp family drama, it is also a smart legal thriller, providing plenty of intrigue and heart-stopping action. I was rooting for Peter and Leigh’s marriage to survive Chrissy’s death and Kip’s arrest while at the same time devouring the juicy details of Leigh’s clients’ own family dramas. The author explores what it means to be truthful and how grief operates on its own timeline.
“All she could see was Chrissy. A beautiful child on her way to becoming a lovely young woman. Becoming. Unbecoming. Never to be.”
Smart, clever and engaging, this was my kind of book. I loved this page-turner and can’t wait for more books from Ms. Kistler!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Bonnie Kistler is a former trial lawyer. She spent her career in private practice with major law firms and successfully tried cases in federal and state courts across the country, as well as teaching writing skills to other lawyers and lecturing frequently to professional organizations and industry groups. She and her husband now live in Florida and the mountains of western North Carolina. They have two daughters.