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on Aug. 13, 2013 :
Stealing Fire is an exceptionally well written novel about the musical theatre industry in the '80s. As a current artist struggling in a very similar situation just 30 years later, I can attest to the likelihood of the situation. While parts of the book were somewhat predictable, the story on the whole was not. There were parts of the story that seemed to drag on (in part 3), but the ending was perfect. A really good summer read.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)
on Aug. 01, 2013 :
A caveat of the romance genre is a handsome young hero who inspires the same infatuation in the reader as in the heroine. This novel does the impossible, delivering a rude, grouchy, self-absorbed Broadway has-been, with a third strike against him, being married and committed to his beautiful but faithless wife. I kept screaming at Amanda, GET OVER this man. Heroines never listen to their readers, or Amanda would quickly realize the budding romance was beautiful, it was good while it lasted, but it CANNOT LAST. I rarely get so worked up at a heroine. I cheered when her friends and family told her to forget this guy. So why couldn't she give up and move on? Why didn't I give up on her and slam the book shut?
The answer is multi-faceted, and the author's story telling skill is Reason #1, but there's also the fascinating mystery of how things we loved in childhood haunt, or inspire, or comfort us for life. In "Stealing Fire" (great title, taken from a great poem, look inside the book!), Beau Kellog is a brilliant lyricist, and early in Amanda Harary's childhood, she listened to a recording of his music over and over again, staring at the album cover, memorizing the lyrics. Losing this treasured album (sister breaks it by accident) only increases its "unforgettable" value. Things familiar to us in our earliest awareness leave a profound, life-long impact. E.g., a man who obsessively collected swans one day found in his grandma's attic a crib mobile of a swan. Consciously, he didn't remember it, but what an imprint! For me, it was that brown and yellow harlequin blanket, a 1950s wedding gift my Mom hated ("ugly"), but after years of sleeping under it, I acquired a passion for that 2-tone diamond-pattern. One day, finding the forgotten blanket at Mom's, I recognized the source of my obsession. And so it is with Amanda in "Stealing Fire." This delightful heroine grows up as an "old soul," a 1970s teen who loves early 20th century Broadway hits that none of her peers would even recognize. When the song writer of her treasured musical appears in real life, what else would she do but fall in love? Never mind that the night they meet, he's in a bad mood and takes it out on an innocent stranger working the hotel switch line; never mind that he's married. The mood and atmosphere are perfect for a man on the phone to strike up a casual conversation that evolves into an addictive flirtaion with an unseen woman. These conversations between strangers via middle-of-the-night phone calls set the stage for a budding romance that must flower, the consequences be damned.
Amanda is unconditionally loving, forgiving, sweet and unselfish. Her only flaw is that she's so thoughtful of everyone else, so self-sacrificing, and so humble. She suffers stage fright that cripples her singing career. Her adoration of Beau Kellog inspires him to rise up from being a has-been to a commercial success. I kept wanting to see him return the favor, but his cheating wife gets his loyalty and attention, not Amanda. Whatever she achieves, she earns the hard way, after long, lonely nights, anguish, toil and persistence, and a little inspiration from Beau, while Beau soars on the wings of love. The heady fire and intoxication of a May-December romance re-invigorates his stale musical career. Being unconditionally loved and adored by a beautiful young woman would be quite the ego boost for any man, and poor Beau did need the boost--but his ego is re-inflated to obnoxious, creative-genius, self-absorbed proportions. I may be the only reader on the planet to feel such antipathy for this man. Readers do bring their own personal baggage to every story. I know too many women like Amanda and too many men like Beau.
To say more about Amanda and her career would risk too many plot spoilers. Suffice it to say, it's a stroke of sheer brilliance that Susan Sloate kept me turning pages in a story so frustrating and heartbreaking. Not a false note is ever struck. Amanda's passion and devotion are 100% authentic--and so compelling, I lay awake at night thinking about her.
The prose is clean and solid, a refreshing change from the slew of typo-ridden, grammatically challenged self-pubbed novels I've been downloading. The characters are fully realized, not cardboard cutouts, and certainly not cliches of the romance genre. Fans of Broadway are sure to love this novel just for the musical references. I kept wishing for a Kindle version that included links to you-tube recordings of the songs. Susan Sloate's song writing skills are as strong as her novel writing talent, which is considerable.
I can't say I ever learned to like the hero of this story, but he is all too true-to-life, and so is the long-suffering heroine. This novel would be a great addition to book-club and classroom discussions. The May-December romance, the age difference, really isn't the issue. The man's selfishness is.
This is a story that cannot be told too often. My only complaint is the ending. However, it reminds me in many ways of the dual-edged ending of a novel I treasured in my childhood (and yes, that means I have little objectivity with this novel: it reminds me of a childhood favorite!). Several years ago, I discovered Susan Sloate online because she was the only other person who'd reviewed the novel I loved and re-read a dozen times from age 13 to 18(every few years, I continue to revisit the novel, and never mind how many decades this has been going on). Susan is the only person I've found who shares my love for this obscure novel. "Good Morning, Young Lady" by Ardthy Kennelly (~1950) is a Cinderella story set in the Old West, with Butch Cassidy capturing the imagination of a motherless girl who listens to a grouchy old neighbor tell stories about the legendary outlaw and his free-ranging exploits. In many ways, the epic themes I love so much about that novel also define Susan Sloate's "Stealing Fire." One of most unforgettable things about both novels is the ending. As a child, I believed Kennelly's was tragic, and I mentally rewrote the ending every time I read it. As an adult, I realize it's not only a happy ending, it's the best of all possible outcomes for the heroine. Likewise, "Stealing Fire" delivers a bittersweet but ultimately very satisfying conclusion.
If Susan Sloate ever uses her many talents to make this story into a musical, I'll be in the front row, cheering.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)
on July 03, 2013 :
Stealing Fire is absolutely superb - the perfect book for anyone who believes in soul mates and the power of love to stretch beyond the limits of age, geography or obstacles thrown our way. It brings back an era that is long gone but not forgotten; of New York and Broadway at its finest, of a young woman just starting out on her own and an older man who finds his great love when he least expects it. I laughed with Amanda and I cried with her; I became angry with Beau yet saw through his gruffness to the soul he tried to hide. Through it all, the book made me remember what love truly is—and that none of us should ever give up on it. Susan Sloate tells the story in her beautifully unique, distinctive style that makes you feel you are really there and a participant, not a reader. It’s a story that you won’t be able to forget, long after you put the book down. It’s destined to be a classic love story for the ages.
(reviewed the day of purchase)