Where the Fire Falls, by Karen Barnett

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Watercolorist Olivia Rutherford has shed her humble beginnings to fashion her image as an avant-garde artist to appeal to the region’s wealthy art-collectors. When she lands a lucrative contract painting illustrations of Yosemite National Park for a travel magazine, including its nightly one-of-a-kind Firefall event, she hopes the money will lift Olivia and her sisters out of poverty. 

After false accusations cost him everything, former minister Clark Johnson has found purpose as a backcountry guide in this natural cathedral of granite and trees. Now he’s faced with the opportunity to become a National Parks Ranger, but is it his true calling? 

As Clark opens Olivia’s eyes to the wonders of Yosemite, she discovers the people are as vital to the park’s story as its vistas–a revelation that may bring her charade to an end.

First Thoughts:

This is the second of Barnett’s Vintage National Parks series. I enjoyed the first in the series, and I love the covers.

My Take:

There’s a sad irony that I read Where the Fire Falls while part of Yosemite National Park is closed due to fire. Many of the locations featured in the book are inaccessible. It’s not that I was going to go there immediately based on this novel, but the descriptions are enough that I want to visit. And I wonder if it’ll be the same once the fires are out. Nature will return, as I’ve seen happen with the ghost boom and bust oil towns around where I live, but what man-made structures will remain?

Where the Fire Falls (ironic title too!) is the second of Karen Barnett’s Vintage National Parks series. It’s set in 1929, just a couple of months before the Wall Street Crash. And that’s important to note because if you know that then you can guess how some of the art-obsessed characters will likely fare by the end. It mixes art, nature, and man’s construct and interpretation of both. It also looks at identity and character: Olivia and Clark have constructed identities for themselves, but their true characters still shine through.

Despite the beautiful descriptions of Yosemite, darkness abounds in the plot. I first felt a sense of foreboding about one-third of my way through the pages. It grew until certain things were revealed, and there was a twist I hadn’t seen coming. The mystery of Olivia’s past is only revealed gradually; although I’m not sure I got the complete answer that I wanted. Karen Barnett’s historical novels have tension and mystery, and I always enjoy reading them.

I don’t know if there are any more books to come in her Vintage National Parks series. I’d like to think there is. There’s the Grand Canyon, and Mammoth Caves, and Shenandoah, and so on. The National Park Service includes wilderness, Civil War and Revolutionary War locations, seashores, trails, and historic homes. I love visiting NPS locations, and Barnett has definitely succeeded in bringing two to life that I’ve not had the opportunity to see.

Thank you to Waterbrook for my complimentary Uncorrected Proof of Where the Fire Falls.

Have you read Where the Fire Falls? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.


Publisher: Waterbrook (an imprint of Penguin Random House)

Publication Date: 05 June 2018

Page Count: 352

Read more on:   Waterbrook’s Website   Karen Barnett’s Website   Yosemite National Park

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

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