(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

This touching story of honor and lost love will be enjoyed by women in their twenties like Ethan’s young wife Katie Anne as well as women in their forties like his violinist-love Annette. As a contemporary romance, FIREBIRD explores Ethan’s desire for real passion which comes into conflict with his sense of community and need to “do the right thing.” The fact that his feelings for Annette transcend time and even life makes this story memorable, although at times it borders on melodrama as Ethan seems more honorable than most other men would be in his situation and his young fiance Katie Anne’s ruse to get him to marry her by being pregnant echoes soap opera plots.

The romance between Annette and Ethan grows gradually, giving the novel a rather slow pace. But when tragedy strikes and Annette dies in a fire which disfigures Katie Anne, Annette’s lingering spirit touches Katie Anne in ways which are not predictable. Her essence is also brought to life again for Ethan through both Katie Anne and Annette’s daughter Eliana, with whom Ethan has forged a strong bond separate from but deeply connected to his special love for her mother.

The affect on a mother of the loss of a child is also well dramatized as Annette shares her past tragedy with Ethan. This makes her fear of losing Eliana and her own subsequent death even more memorable. Structurally, this aspect of Annette’s story is a bit contrived, but it helps Ethan understand the importance of bringing stability to Eliana’s life after Annette is gone, and he rises to the task.

Janice Graham’s writing style is vivid and her characters easy to get to know, with dialogue and visual touches that bring the Kansas hills and those who live among them to life on the page.