Screenwriter and author Lisa Lutz is well known for her zany mystery series starring Izzy Spellman, private eye. Here she jumps into mainstream women’s fiction with How to Start a Fire, an engaging portrait of female friendship spanning two decades. In 1993, when all three are students at UC Santa Cruz, freshman roommates Kate and Anna find George passed out on the lawn outside the party they had all attended. The three young women quickly become friends during their undergraduate years and beyond, the bonds between them tightening and loosening over the years.
Anna comes from a wealthy Boston family—her father preoccupied with business, her mother with shopping and keeping up appearances. Kate’s parents died when she was 8, and she was raised by her very traditional Czech grandfather. Her highest ambition is to eventually take over the family diner, where she has worked since she was 12. George, the gorgeous, athletic basketball player, is the outdoorsy type, working toward a forestry degree.
Just before graduation, Kate’s grandfather dies, sending her into a downward spiral of “retirement,” which consists mainly of watching TV for 12 hours at a stretch. At about the same time, George finds out her parents are divorcing due to her father’s infidelities. And Anna, who takes a fifth year to get a chemistry minor to bolster her med school applications, develops a serious drinking problem—leading to an episode involving all three women which will haunt them for at least the next 15 years.
Lutz gives the reader sporadic glimpses into their lives over that time frame, as they come together, drift apart and repeat the process over moves, marriages, adventures, tragedies and professional pitfalls. With wit and a gift for capturing the repartee between siblings and old friends, Lutz brings us a memorable and ultimately uplifting saga of three strong, unique women.