I usually love to go to book readings/ signings and make it a point to get to as many as I can. So after a trying Spring, my friend and I trudged over to Collected Book Works in Santa Fe, got a coffee at their Iconic Roasters inside the local book shop, and settled in for a fun evening. And it was, for the most part. Fernando Santos wrote The Fire Line, The story of the Granite Mountain HotShots and one of the Deadliest Days in American Firefighting. It is based on the tragedy when nineteen members of a HotShot crew out of Prescott Arizona, perished in a forest fire on Granite Mountain. Heady stuff! The whole thing was recorded and the author was introduced by the Santa Fe Fire Chief, who read a text on his phone from a Prescott Arizona Firefighter who knew the author, praising her work.
When she started speaking she spoke eloquently and was very aware of what impact her book might make on the publics perception of the tragedy. Among the crowd was a Mother of a firefighter who gave up being a Hotshot when this particular crew he knew got killed in the blaze. She was the most emotional thing about the entire evening.
And that is what this book lacks… Fernanda Santos is a wonderful writer for the New York Times, and her writing has an article third person take on things. There is no connection to the subject except from a far away perspective, as if she is too afraid to dig deeper and get into the true loss she is writing about. As she read from two of the chapters of the book it seemed as if she was keeping the emotions of the family members of the Hotshots at arms length, writing matter of factly about it. I thought surely there would be some deeper impact.. but I was sorely mistaken.
Both my friend and I have friends and family members who are firefighters. So surely, we thought there would be some kind of connection that would make us want to buy Santos’ book and give it a try. But after the dry non-impactful reading, and the only one impacted being the Mom of a firefighters in the audience.. we were left cold. The coffee and atmosphere was great though.. Kudos to Collected Book Works and Iconic Coffee Roasters.
There is a movie in production in New Mexico right now, based on the tragedy, and starring Josh Brolin. And a book about the incident from the lone survivor, Brendan McDonough called My Lost Brothers: The Untold Story by the Yarnell Hill Fire’s Lone Survivor. I have a feeling that will be the book to read. Fernanda Santos heart was in the right place, but the perspective is all wrong. Just my two cents…