Facing the Fire
by Gail Barrett
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1414, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-27484-X
***
Cade McKenzie, is a smokejumper from the Forest Service Smokejumper Base in Missoula, Montana, and Jordan Wells is his ex-wife. As the story opens Jordan is visiting their mountain cabin in Montana for the last time prior to selling it.

Their marriage had dissolved when she was a young immature 19 year old, deprived and angry because Cade was not home all the time, seemingly preferring his job to her company. Smokejumpers usually work and are on call from June to October. The breakup came as a result of his being away when she miscarried. Since she had not shared the fact of her pregnancy with him, it seems a bit unfair to blame him for this.

The passing years have at least matured her, and although she has genuine fear of abandonment issues, she is poised on the brink of remedying this by finally accepting a proposal and marrying a very safe nice lap dog man.

Smokejumpers are airborne firefighters. Very highly trained, they are parachuted in early for a quick initial attack on wildland fires in remote areas. Firefighting tools, food, water are dropped with them, seeking to make them self sufficient for the first 48 hours of a fire.

Thus on the day Jordan is packing up, Cade is dropped to fight a nearby wildfire. He realizes his old cabin is in the vicinity, and he starts to check it to make sure it is empty, when a rookie freezes as a snag started falling toward him. A snag is a dead burning tree usually killing anything in its path. Cade pitches forward to save the rookie and as a result is injured.

Knowing he is going to be taken off the line anyway as a result of his injury, he believes he still has time to check the cabin. There he finds Jordan and urges her to hop in her jeep and get out. Because of his injury and the growing fire danger, he goes with her hoping to save his team from having to medivac him.

The smokejumping part of the story is very genuine. Some of the events and traumas faced are contrived, thus weakening an otherwise very strong effort. For example, while evacuating, Cade drifts off to sleep and finally wakes up to discover they have been stopped for over 15 minutes while Jordan is trying to rescue a dog. Time is of the essence, nonetheless she transfers her abandonment issues to refusing to abandon a lost dog she had spotted in the woods.

They retrieve him, but meanwhile the elapsed time has cut off their escape route, and they have to seek another way. This way finds them with a bridge out, etc… The dog continues to play a huge role in giving Jordan a platform to spend a lot of thought time replaying desertion feelings.

The reader will discover just how many ways this can be phrased and rephrased. The sexual tension between them is rekindled as can be expected as they fight to escape the twin fires.

The raging fire they are seeking to escape is realistically portrayed, the characters are well developed and the dialogue is crisp. It is the great weight of the inner dialogue that drags this novel down to an average read.

--Thea Davis


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