Book Review: A BRIGHTER FLAME by Christine Nolfi

A BRIGHTER FLAME by Christine Nolfi book cover, blue background with a large orange-red leaf behind a orange-yellow thin leaf mimicking a flameA Brighter Flame by Christine Nolfi
ISBN: 9781542038843 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781799783862 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B09WPKL13Q (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09RK5VJLX (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: September 27, 2022
Genre: Fiction | Family Life

She’s always wanted a sense of belonging. The last place she expects to find it is home.

Vale Lightner’s dreams turn to ash when the Pittsburgh bar she owns goes up in flames. Just like the past she escaped, very little seems salvageable. Facing unavoidable change, Vale returns to her hometown of Philadelphia to stay with her grandmother.

She knows that returning also means facing everything she left behind: a mother and stepfather who shunted her into the background from the day they married, and her charmed and favored half-sister, Blythe, who has abandoned a perfect marriage and is now at a crossroads of her own. Everyone has their secrets, and this reunited family racked by them is about to reach a crisis point.

For a mother and her two daughters, this reunion is a chance for closure, newfound love, and forgiveness. As each of them reassesses her own memories of the past, only the truth can bring them together—in ways that could last forever. From the bestselling author of The Passing Storm comes a poignant novel about family secrets, healing, and the hope of second chances.

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Vale Lightner is like so many others, in that she doesn’t feel that she quite fits in with her family. She is also constantly struggling to “fit in” various work environments. Vale is estranged from her mother, stepfather, and half-sister. The only “family” she currently has a relationship with is her father and maternal grandmother, but she strives to maintain those relationships no matter what. Sadly, Vale’s relationship with her father is tottering on the edge as they deal with their jointly-owned bar burning down. Vale isn’t quite sure what she wants to do with her life at this point, but owning another bar and returning to Philadelphia isn’t it. Vale is forced to accommodate her grandmother, who seems to be dealing with a major health issue. Returning to Philadelphia isn’t her first, second, or third choice, but she is used to starting over. This time around, she has to do it with her half-sister watching. As Vale begins to deal with the memories of her past, she comes to realize that there is a thin line between what we remember and what actually happened. Is it possible her relationship with her mother, stepfather, and half-sister was built on misperceptions? Is it possible for her to craft a new relationship with her sister? Vale has to decide if she’s willing to start over with her family? Can she forgive them as she seeks forgiveness for her own mistakes and start anew?

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Tolstoy

I found A Brighter Flame by Christine Nolfi to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. Vale was all-too-familiar in that she doesn’t feel like she quite fits in with her family. Vale is struggling on so many levels. She has to contend with the idea that her father is irresponsible and will never quite grow up and be the parent she wants. She is tormented by the idea that her mother didn’t really want to keep her but refused to give up custody to an irresponsible parent. She worries that her grandmother might be seriously ill. Vale also comes to the realization that her sister is dealing with just as many issues as she is and the only way to rebuild that relationship is by being the “big sister” her younger sister wants and needs. I won’t even get into the whole budding romance with her neighborhood pharmacist. I thought all of the characters were not only realistic but realistically flawed. Some were idealistic, others were pessimistic, and others were realistic with a touch of idealism. There aren’t any “bad guys” in this story, just a family filled with flawed individuals trying to make a way the best way they know how.

I have a huge list of “favorite” authors but only a handful that I will buy any and everything they write. Christine Nolfi is in both categories. A Brighter Flame is a multi-faceted multigenerational story that portrays relationships with all of their flaws. Each character is struggling with something major and it is only when they voice their struggles and fears that they are capable of moving forward with the help of family and friends. A Brighter Flame is not just about family or second chances, it is also about forgiveness, acceptance, and growth. If you can’t tell, I enjoyed A Brighter Flame. Even though I was afforded the opportunity to read this early via a digital review copy, I pre-ordered a digital copy for my personal library and ordered a print copy for my 87-y.o. mother (she loves reading Christine Nolfi books almost as much as I do). If you’re interested in reading a well-written contemporary story about family, hope, love, and second chances, then I strongly encourage you to go and get a copy of A Brighter Flame for yourself (I can’t wait to reread this one!).

Happy Reading, y’all! ♦

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the author via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Author: thebookdivasreads

I'm a reader, an avid reader, or perhaps a rabid reader (at least according to my family). I enjoy reading from a variety of different genres but particularly enjoy fiction, mystery, suspense, thrillers, ChickLit, romance and classics. I also enjoy reading about numerous non-fiction subjects including aromatherapy, comparative religions, herbalism, naturopathic medicine, and tea.

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