The Stars Are Fire Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 43 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Stars Are Fire.
This section contains 968 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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The Stars Are Fire Summary & Study Guide Description

The Stars Are Fire Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Shreve, Anita. The Stars Are Fire. Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.

Grace Holland is a young homemaker living in the coastal Maine town of Hunts Beach with her small family. Her husband Gene is a surveyor, and they have two children: Claire, 20-months-old, and Tom, five-months-old. It is the rainy spring of 1947, and the famine in Europe is starting to hit the American table. Grace visits her friend Rosie and then her mother Marjorie. Things have been strained with Gene, and she finds herself never enjoying sex. Later that night, her attempt to bring back romance to the relationship is crushed when Gene sexually assaults her. With seemingly no other choice, Grace continues to go through the motions of the loveless marriage, but when Gene’s mother Merle dies unexpectedly of surgery complications, he no longer tries to hide his disdain for his wife. Grace is horrified to discover she is pregnant once again, and Gene begins to insist they move into Merle’s empty seaside mansion. Grace refuses to live somewhere so isolated, and as a warm summer passes into an autumn drought, they stay at a stalemate.

After smelling wildfire for days, one night Grace spots the red glow of flames on the horizon. Unsure what to do, Grace and Rosie plan as their husbands build a firebreak. Awoken by Claire’s screams, Grace narrowly escapes her burning home and hunkers down with her children by the fire’s edge. Rosie joins her, and after a traumatic night, they are rescued and taken to the hospital. Grace miscarries and grieves. There is no news of her missing family or friends. After only a few days, she is taken in by the Yorks, who already have been caring for her children. Grace has nothing, so they take her shopping for fabric for clothing. She receives a letter from Rosie, explaining that she and her husband Tim have moved in with extended family in Nova Scotia. Tim also writes that he saw Gene vanish into the fire. Grace’s mother eventually finds her, and they all move in with Marjorie’s friends. After Thanksgiving Claire comes down with a dangerous fever, but Grace takes her to the clinic where the new Dr. Lighthart is able to get the child’s temperature under control with ice baths. Grace tells him about her missing husband, whom she secretly fears has actually abandoned his family. She knows that she will need a job if she ever hopes to be independent of charity.

Desperate, Grace decides to move her family into her mother-in-law’s large house. When she goes to check on it, she hears the sweeping notes of a concerto. Aidan Berne, a handsome young Irish pianist, has taken up residence in the empty house. After he apologies for squatting, she invites him to stay on as their boarder. They move the piano downstairs and Aidan plays music for Marjorie and the children. As his stay grows longer, he and Grace become closer, often reading books together by the fireside. When Aidan receives an audition to be a soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, he is forced to leave, but before he departs they have passionate sex. After Aidan has left, a nor’easter blows into town and snows the family in. Grace decides to tailor some of Merle’s clothing to fit her for a possible job and is shocked to discover a trove of expensive jewelry in the hems. Though she refuses to touch most of the jewelry, she takes one bracelet to a jeweler to exchange for money. She also stops at Dr. Lighthart’s office, where she is hired on the spot as a secretary. The clinic is packed and she is overwhelmed her first few days. However, Grace gets better at the job as time passes, and soon she and Dr. Lighthart are good friends. He entrusts her with important tasks at the office, and she asks him to help her buy a car from a used lot. With her car Grace’s commute is much shorter, and she begins spending time adventuring with her family. However, after only a week with the car, Grace hears Claire shriek and discovers that Gene, burned terribly and missing an arm, has finally come home.

Gene explains that he has been in a coma for the months since the fire. Dr. Lighthart pays a visit and explains that Gene will need painful physical therapy and constant care. Grace’s new role as care-taker is made no easier by Gene’s bitterness and sharp tongue. He frightens off one nurse and terrifies the children. One day Grace receives a loving letter from Aidan, and she tears up as she writes him that her husband has returned alive. Weeks pass and Grace grows more depressed. After Gene again assaults her and then puts water in her car’s fuel tank, Grace knows something must change. Everything comes to a climax when Grace falls down the stairs during a fight. Still bruised, she sells Merle’s jewelry for an enormous sum, and after finding a live-in nurse, she drives the children north.

Grace builds a simple but well-furnished house next to Rosie and Tim’s home in Nova Scotia. She takes up photography and begins to contemplate a freelance career. Gene becomes romantically involved with his nurse, and Marjorie visits Grace twice a year. One weekend, Grace and Rosie take a short vacation in Halifax. After a fancy meal, Grace sees a flyer for a symphony orchestra concert. She sits in the dark and watches as Aidan takes the stage and plays beautifully. Afterward, she walks down to meet him, and they go off hand in hand.

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