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Snow After Fire


Worth reading 😎

This extraordinary story of courage, resilience, loyalty, and love after immense loss will leap off the page and into your heart.

The loss and devastation wrought by the Paradise Camp Fire in Northern California may have waned for some as the terrible destruction faded from the headlines. But as author Kandi Maxwell ably points out in this candid and heartfelt memoir, the losses are still fresh for many who survived.

For those who may have forgotten, the 2018 Camp Fire was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California's history. It was also the most expensive natural disaster in the world in 2018 in terms of insured losses. Around thirty thousand people lost their homes. But the damage and desolation were perhaps greater and longer-lasting in terms of personal, familial, and emotional losses. Snow After Fire is a powerful and poignant look at these losses and how this deadly fire and its aftermath effected one woman and her family.

Struggling with anxiety, depression, and other health issues, the author chronicles how she faces the challenges of her two sons and their families moving into the small cabin she shares with her husband, Lloyd, after their homes are lost in the fire. She traces the difficulties her sons and others face finding suitable housing and the toll taken in moving from motels and other temporary housing.


Tales of trauma and displacement include PTSD, drug and alcohol use, anxiety, depression, anger, and grief. Maxwell also chronicles how the crowded living situation and other factors result in tension between her and her husband. “Life was like an accumulation of chaos and bliss I had assembled in the dark,” she writes. These are compounded by the loss of her parents and travel and other restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Waves of collective grief are intensified during a July heat wave sans air-conditioning.


While Maxwell struggles with her marriage and is separated from Lloyd, her sons and their families settle into FEMA trailers. (That’s a story in itself. Talk about government red tape! It takes almost a year for four adults and two children to be placed in a 1,000-foot temporary home.) The section on Canine Medicine and Maxwell’s adoption of a two year-old husky named Poochie (later re-named Little Bit) is golden.


Throughout the narrative, the author notes several other fires that occurred close to her home since the Paradise Camp Fire. She also writes about “housing insecurity and the loss of our wild lands.” In pellucid and perspicuous prose, the author explains that “writing was my way to find clarity in an often-confusing world. It provided structure for my messy emotions.” She goes on to say that writing gave her time to reflect and discover “something to be thankful for during the chaos. It was, and is, how I find hope.”

Told in the first person, the narrative style is straight-forward. Open. Gut-level honest. At about 115 pages, this is a fairly quick read. But it’s not a light one. You’re not going to find anything trite or canned in this memoir. There’s too much heart in this book for that. It’s also too smart for that.

Snow After Fire shines especially bright in its descriptions of Northern California’s feral beauty and rugged majesty. You can almost see the wildflowers and taste the mountain air.

Snow After Fire isn’t for the faint of heart. It's intense, thoughtful, and gripping. Reading this book is like walking into a dark room and flipping on a light switch. As the shadows dissipate, you may see things you didn’t want to see or remember. But you may also see precious memories, hope, and beauty amid the ashes.

Expertly paced and finely crafted, Snow After Fire features strong writing and a masterful command of the language. Nimble pacing and an articulate first person voice will propel this extraordinary story of courage, resilience, loyalty, and love off the page and into your heart. I’d grab a copy now ‘fize you.

My Rating: 3.5

Reviewed by

Lifelong bibliophile. Library Board Member. Select book reviews featured on my blog and Goodreads, etc. I'm a frank but fair reviewer, averaging 400+ books/year in a Wide Variety of genres on multiple platforms. Over 1,000 published reviews.

Fall 2018

About the author

Kandi is a retired English teacher. She resides in the Northern California mountains. Her stories have been published in Hippocampus Magazine, KYSO Flash, The Door is Ajar, Raven’s Perch, The Offbeat, Wordrunner eChapbooks and in many other literary journals and print anthologies.  view profile

Published on June 06, 2023

Published by Legacy Book Press

40000 words

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

Reviewed by