Fireweed

Fireweed is an intriguing mystery, guaranteed to keep you turning the pages.

A head on collision steals the life of wife and mother, Serena Grenville, shattering the safe peaceful lives of her husband, Steve and Renée, his 15-year-old daughter. When Renée and her dad attempt to build a new family of two, the pressures of school, work and friendship increase the stress in their lives.

At first Renée is frustrated by an unidentified voice on the phone. She thinks she knows who it is.  When the harassment continues, fear creeps in. Will Steve and Renée recognize and receive the help that God offers them?

Fireweed weaves the intrigue of mystery with the search for hope to create a story of compassion and light, tears and laughter. Whether you’re wanting to escape for rest and reflection, or searching for help with grief, Fireweed is a great place to start.

Offering fourteen strategies for dealing with grief, Fireweed has been recommended by grief counsellors, funeral directors and clergy. Adults and teens who don’t wish to read a clinical book on grief will find in Fireweed lessons they need for new life.

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Description

Janet’s Notes

A story of faith, Fireweed presents the age-old questions “Why doesn’t God fix what happened? Why didn’t God prevent this in the first place? What role does God play in our lives?” As they live each day, Steve and Renée deal with these questions. Fireweed will engender much discussion in your book club or study group. Below you will find questions to guide that discussion.

Study Questions for Book Clubs

In order to facilitate discussion by your bookclub, you will find questions below.

  1. Review why the author, Janet Stobie chose Fireweed as the title. Did you find moments of encountering the “Fireweed” in the story? Have you had “Fireweed” moments in your life?
  2. Fireweed is a “Christian” novel. Name one example of your understanding of “Christian Faith” you found in this story.
  3. How is Renee similar and/or different from the teens that you have experienced?
  4. Fireweed is more than a mystery story. Underneath the mystery, Fireweed introduces several current social issues.
    • Grief – Have you used any of the strategies that Janet Stobie suggests?
    • Interfaith Dialogue – The teens in the story see interfaith dialogue as one step towards peace. Janet Stobie begins this dialogue with “respect” for other faiths. Does your understanding of Christianity lead you to this “respect”?
    • Forgiveness – What does Fireweed say to you about forgiveness?
  5. When we read a story, we tend to identify with at least one of the characters. Which character in the story felt most real for you?
  6. The story is told from two viewpoints – Renee’s and Steve’s. How was this helpful for you? Did the two viewpoints present any difficulties for you?
  7. Janet Stobie has included two events in the church’s life, the Advent Decorating Potluck and the Tinsel and Tears Service. What did you learn from reading about these events?
  8. What will you remember most from Fireweed?

Sample

(Note: This is a scene from the second chapter of the book. Renee’s Mom, Serena, has been killed by a drunk driver. We have already learned that Serena made her special chocolate sauce to give away as gifts, especially at Christmas. At this point in the story, Renee’s dad has asked her to go to the attic to get jars so that the two of them can make Serena’s chocolate sauce again this Christmas.)

Fireweed

Taking a deep breath, I forced my reluctant feet to climb the stairs. As I reached out for the attic doorknob, I shouted into the empty stairwell, “I can’t do it. I can’t pretend I’m okay any longer.”

Only the relentless slap, scratch, scratch of the branches answered me.

I bit my lip hard in an effort to gain control. The pain and the salty taste of blood only added to my misery. I crumpled onto the landing. “Oh God, why … why did she have to …?”

Once again, that awful night six long months ago replayed in my mind. As always, the scene faded with Constable Filmore’s words, “She died instantly. She didn’t have a chance.”

“Please fix it, God,” I pleaded. “I’m only fifteen. I need my mom.”

Curled up in a ball, I rocked back and forth, seeking comfort from the motion. In time, my sobs slowed. I regained control. Enough, I thought. I’ll get those jars, but I won’t help make the sauce. I won’t replace Mom. I can’t.

Gathering my courage, I scrambled to my feet and gave the doorknob a fierce yank. Creeeeak. Cold, dank air flooded all around me. I shivered.

Where are those boxes? They should be right here beside the door. My foot made a wide arc in the darkness, touching nothing but bare floor. I took several steps forward.

Thud!

What was that? I flailed my arms in search of the string to turn on the light.

Calm down, Renée, my inner voice ordered. It’s probably just a squirrel. Take a deep breath and relax!

Standing rigid, I sucked air in through my nose and then let it out slowly, the way I had been taught in yoga class. The panic began to subside.

Once again, I reached out for the old string. This time I felt it brush my fingers. Slowly, I brought my hand back, grasped the string, and pulled. One bare bulb, hanging high in the rafters, spread an eerie light over the attic’s chaos. Cartons, bits of old furniture, and other junk, everything coated with years of dust, formed a barrier in front of me.

With light, curiosity replaced my fear. Forgetting the jars, I pushed furniture and boxes aside, searching for the intruder. Near the far corner, my eyes lit on Grandma’s Tibetan trunk. I fell on my knees in front of it.

“Grandma,” I whispered. Memories of Grandma and her stories rolled through my mind as my fingers traced the outline of a dragon peering through the grime of neglect.

A whimper penetrated the stillness of the moment…

Fireweed’s Birth Story

One very cold winter morning, I woke up with a story rolling in my mind. Even before I started my morning prayer time, I needed to get it written down. The words tumbled from my fingertips. A troubled young girl sat on the attic stairs feeling lost and alone. “Why did my mother have to die? You should have saved her God. Didn’t you know I need her?” After five pages, I stopped to rest and pray.

“What is this, God?” I asked. I reread what I had written. Tears poured down my cheeks. Every day that week, I added a few more pages. Then, my life got busy. I had my columns to finish for the paper and a sermon to complete.

Time passed. A month later, I added a few more pages. That became the rhythm. Write a bit and leave it. Eventually, I realized that I was writing a novel and had better learn how. I took some courses and participated in some workshops and kept writing. When Tom and I journeyed to Tennessee, I used the travel time in the car to add a multitude of chapters. Coming home, I congratulated myself on having a novel two thirds written. We stopped at my sister’s in Blenheim. While we were sleeping, someone broke into our truck and stole my computer. Frustration turned to grief when I realized that I hadn’t backed up all of the writing I had done on the journey.

In the end the first draft took nearly three years. After much rewriting, I sent my precious manuscript to a professional editor. With her help, I made more changes. Finally, Fireweed, was completed. It was the best I could make it.

I believe that God wanted this story to be written. In my prayers, I call it our book, because God has certainly helped me every step of the way.

7 reviews for Fireweed

  1. Diane Claridge

    Fireweed is a heartwarming story about a family tragedy. The characters are believable because they have flaws and they question their faith. I got caught in the story and sat up half the night reading it. When I finished my question was, “When’s the next installment?” I want to know more about these characters and their lives.

  2. Francie

    I finished Fireweed a few weeks ago and it’s taken me awhile to write and tell you how much I loved it. You certainly have a way of making your characters seem real and I felt as though I knew and cared for Renee and Steve. I found I’d smile with them and once got teary-eyed as well. It is a good reminder for all to pray and think kindly of all others, no matter what. And so I just wanted to affirm to you, from a reader’s point of view, that your ministry is alive and well, and in such a gentle, loving way.

  3. Brian D. McLaren, author/speaker/activist

    When I was a teenager, I always had a novel beside my bed. The best ones kept me up late and got me up early. Janet Stobie’s Fireweed would have been in that category. It introduces you to characters you’ll care about struggling with challenges all young (and older) people face, and between the lines, it offers insight to help you live well.

  4. Jean Booker

    Hi Janet – loved your book! Good plot – good characters – with a bit of mystery and suspense thrown in.

  5. Ruth Welham-Umphrey

    I finished the book last week. I loved it. The characters were so real and the emotions and reactions were very true. The coping strategies were helpful and can be applied in daily living with its stresses and problems

  6. Deidre

    Hi Janet,

    I believe my Grandma met with you a few weeks ago. She had purchased for me “Fireweed”, in which you had signed and wrote a nice note inside.

    I am not sure how much she had talked to your or told you about our story, but you may recognize some. My Mom unexpectedly and suddenly passed away on Valentine’s day of this year. She was the rock of our family. Although my Dad is very involved, like most Moms, she took care of a lot.

    For some of these reasons, your book was very relatable in various cases. I am going into University this fall, so am in a general age of the characters in the novel. I am not a huge reader but truly enjoyed your book and read it within a couple days.

  7. Patti

    Hi Janet: Read your new book Fireweed. Had to read it in one day.Well done! I could relate to many things in the book. My Mom died a year ago and we buried her christmas eve & my Dads birthday was Christmas day. That year we carried on all the traditions that Mom would have loved. My mom and Dad were a devouted couple for 66 years! We miss her dearly but, know she would want us to carry on.

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