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Praise for Other Fires: A Novel

Review from
Wisconsin Bookwatch: February 2021
James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575

Synopsis: The troubled marriage of Joss and Phil is fragmented when Phil is injured in a devastating fire and diagnosed with Capgras delusion — a misidentification syndrome in which a person becomes convinced that a loved one has been replaced by an identical imposter.

Faced with a husband who no longer recognizes her, Joss struggles to find motivation to save their marriage, even as family secrets start to emerge that challenge everything she thought she knew. With two young daughters, a looming book deadline, and an attractive but complicated distraction named Adam complicating her situation even further, Joss has to decide what she wants for her family — and what family even means.

Critique: A riveting page turner of a novel by an author with the kind of narrative driven storytelling style that will fully entertain and engage the reader from cover to cover, Lenore H. Gay’s “Other Fires” is a fully absorbing and unreservedly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fictions collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of anyone with an interest in Medical/Psychological themed fiction that “Other Fires” is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.49).

Editorial Note: Lenore Gay is a retired Licensed Professional Counselor with a master’s in sociology and rehabilitation counseling. She was an adjunct faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Rehabilitation Counseling Department for thirty years. She has worked in several agencies and psychiatric hospitals, and for ten years worked at her private counseling practice before becoming Coordinator of VCU’s Rehabilitation Counseling Department internship program.

Review from journalist, Jay Stafford with The Free Lance Star

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

With perception and eloquence, Lenore H. Gay expands on Tolstoy’s axiom in her second novel, “Other Fires.”

Joss and Phil Montgomery seem to have a good life. She’s a scholar and writer, he’s a professor, and they have two daughters, preteen Terpe and infant Geline.

But their marriage is precarious. And after Joss exiles Phil, a serial adulterer, from their bedroom, tragedy strikes when their house catches fire.

Joss and the girls escape relatively unhurt. But Phil suffers burns, a broken bone and a traumatic brain injury that leaves him with Capgras Syndrome, an affliction that causes him to believe that Joss is an imposter who merely resembles his wife

A long stint in a hospital and a rehabilitation center keeps him from home as Joss tries to meet a book deadline while taking care of her daughters.

Enter Adam Werther, an electrician with a drinking problem, bitter memories of his abusive father and recurring dreams of a remote island. Joss hires him to help with house repairs, and it’s not long before the two begin a sexual relationship.

Meanwhile, Terpe—nearly friendless—skips school to visit Phil at the rehab center, only to find him kissing his latest paramour.

Gay, a Richmonder and a retired licensed professional counselor, operated a private counseling practice for 10 years and later served as the coordinator of the internship program at the Rehabilitation Counseling Department at Virginia Commonwealth University.

As she did in her début novel, 2016’s “Shelter of Leaves,” she draws on her experience to enrich “Other Fires.” Through the voices of Joss, Phil, Terpe and Adam, she simultaneously narrates this grim but ultimately hopeful story while also creating a small but memorable cast of characters.

With objectivity tempered by compassion, Gay demonstrates how the damage inflicted by imperfect parents can resonate in adulthood—but can also let light shine through cracks in the psyche.

Those who grew up in dysfunctional families might well emerge from “Other Fires” with an enhanced perspective and a greater capacity for forgiveness.


“Once again, Lenore Gay has woven a story that captivates the reader from page one. Other Fires is a brilliant study of tragedy on multiples levels. Beginning with a dysfunctional family struggling in the aftermath of a terrible fire, she expertly peels back the layers of human behavior and motivation that unravels the lives of the guilty and innocent. Peppered with surprising twists and turns, the story will stay with you long after you close the cover.”

—PAM WEBBER, author of The Wiregrass and Moon Water


“Heartwarming and dramatic, the two major intertwining stories in Other Fires reach across decades from troubled childhood to mid-life adults and reaffirm what remains human and vulnerable in all of us. The portraits of the main characters arc from hopelessness to vulnerability and a sense of recovery. Gay holds the reader’s attention from the first page.”

—DIANA Y. PAUL, author of Things Unsaid


“How do people figure out their minds? This novel explores what constitutes reality, and from whose perspective. Drawing on her varied experiences in life and background in rehabilitation and mental health counseling, Lenore Gay weaves together the perspectives of compelling characters who interact in ways that keep the pages of this novel turning.”

—CHRIS REID, PhD, Statistical Psychology

Other Fires: A Novel by Lenore H. Gay –

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