Book Review: Smoke by Catherine McKenzie

Why I picked it up

I’ve read other books by Catherine McKenzie before, Spin and Forgotten, and I enjoyed them, so I figured I’d try this one too. It’s about a Elizabeth, an ex-firefighter, who is dealing with an impending divorce while a forest fire threatens to engulf their town. 🔥


The storyline about the fire and the arson investigation added a deeper level of drama to the typical “my relationship is unraveling” storyline, especially with the tension towards the end. I have to admit I am slightly obsessed with natural disasters (sorry, I know that’s weird), and especially how people come together in a crisis, or are torn apart, so I appreciated that part of the story. Also, loved Catherine’s detailed depiction of the setting. 👏🏻


I start off the book following the main character, Elizabeth, telling us her story in first person narration. Several chapters in, the narration switches to third person narration, following another character, Elizabeth’s ex-best friend, named Mindy.

My reaction:


Multiple narratives are one of my biggest pet peeves. Sometimes it works very, very well, but most of the time? No. Just no. I need a warning, thanks. Lol.

I’ll admit, I am a lazy reader. I want to get close to one main character and experience everything they go through. When I have to actively pay attention and switch from different narrators and narrative styles, it just bugs me. It’s also probably because I read predominantly while commuting, so I read during my morning commute and my evening commute. After an entire workday, I get on the subway, pick up my book, and want to continue the story from the morning. But when narrators switch like this, I’ll be momentarily confused and be all “Wait was this Elizabeth or Mindy I was reading?” And that just gets annoying after awhile.

My other confusing thing about this book was the location. In the beginning, Nelson is said to be in the Northern Rockies. So okay, that would mean Canada, right? But later, throughout the book, there are sheriffs and other American references, leaving me to assume it was actually set in the USA. Totally not important to the storyline, but something I noticed.

Fave Quote

“You’re going to admit defeat?” I said.
“Never surrender.”
I laughed. “Oh my god, Core yHart.”
“What now?”
“Corey Hart. The ‘Sunglasses at Night’ guy? We’ve talked about this before.”

This book should get 5 stars just for a COREY MOTHERFUCKING HART REFERENCE!!!!


(Seriously I love this song, lmao.)

P.S. I read this answer to a question about the book on Goodreads before reading the book and I was like wow, this book is going to be more literary than I expected it to be. I read through the entire book waiting for a boy’s transition from living in the Mississippi to a man and the world’s establishment and their crushing the working class.