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Fireweed: An Intriguing Mystery
Fireweed interweaves the excitement of a mystery story with a message of hope for those struggling with grief. As you follow the daily life of fifteen-year-old Renée Grenville and her dad, Steve, you will learn skills for dealing with the death of a loved one. Fireweed also presents Renée’s faith journey from believing in a “Mr. Fix It” God to a “Companion” God, who walks with her through life’s difficulties.
Radio Interview – Charlene Jones interviews Janet Stobie re: her mystery novel, Fireweed.
Study Questions for Book Clubs
- 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?
- Fireweed is a “Christian” novel. Name one example of your understanding of “Christian Faith” you found in this story.
- How is Renee similar and/or different from the teens that you have experienced?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- What will you remember most from Fireweed?
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REVIEWS FOR FIREWEED by Janet Stobie
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. – Brian D. McLaren, author/speaker/activist Author of “Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road ******
It’s been a weekend of laughter, tears and suspense, and furthermore I have NEVER read a book so fast in my life. I couldn’t put it down! Only during the summer do I allow myself the privilege of pleasure reading.
I am deeply touched by the story, I love the way you wove healing liturgies and basic daily worship and prayer in so naturally and the format, which allowed me to read a day at a time, and not lose my place when I got interrupted by life.
Thanks SO MUCH. I hope that it will touch many hearts, and especially those outside UCC circles who need to know about hope and caring so readily available to them.
Rosemary Lambie (Rev.) Executive Secretary, Montreal and Ottawa Conference, United Church of Canada
As a teenager who has dealt with grief, I found it very worthwhile to read about Renée’s experiences as well as her father’s with loss in Fireweed. This book is one that teenagers and parents dealing with the loss of a loved one should read. I found that it helps to develop a sense of understanding between those coping with grief. I enjoyed the story as well.
Olivia Phillips – Seventeen, student at I.E. Weldon S.S., Lindsay, Ontario – Active member Dunsford United Church
With compassion and insight, Fireweed explores the complex relationship between a father and daughter as they deal with grief and loss and what it means to be family. Fireweed is a courageous story of faith and hope in the midst of despair. It will touch the hearts of readers with its message of God’s great love for us all. It also carries a message of inclusive theology that is often difficult to find in today’s Christian literature and as a minister in the United Church of Canada it was a refreshing read that I would recommend.
Rev. Cathy Gradante – United Church Minister
Author Rev. Janet Stobie’s novel addresses the topic of grief and how Renée and her father Steve strive to cope with their loss, as people of faith. While espousing Christianity this novel speaks to the secular world as well.
Stobie has crafted characters and situations that will ring true for many families experiencing loss. The novel depicts with sensitivity that life does have to go on, even in the midst of intense sorrow. The mundane world of work and school continue to exist, juxtaposed with the surreal.
Ms. Stobie’s background as aUnitedChurchminister has provided her with much insight into the healing rituals that are essential in helping the grieving process. From a Christian perspective, there are numerous references to Scripture passages and an outline of an Advent Service of Remembrance is included as part of the narrative. Music and words to original songs are also included as an Appendix.
Janice L. Hannon – Retired Registered Nurse and Educator, palliative care Facilitator of grief recovery programs with children, teens and adults.
A Review of Fireweed
I truly enjoyed reading Fireweed. The kitten discovery, the office decorating, Dad’s dating, the stalker, all lead me further into the book. I truly feel it was well done and I especially liked how all the ends are brought together in the final chapter.
Working as a grief resource person at the funeral home and as a grief facilitator for so many years, I think widowers, and widows who are coping with the death of a spouse and raising a teen in the process, would be a solid market for this book.
It is remarkable how well Janet expresses the grief of a teen and the issues they deal with. Trying to get a fix on teens feelings is difficult at the best of times but Janet is right on.
We have an expression in grief work: “Women grieve and men remarry.” This is true in about 95% of our experiences. Janet is right about Steve moving forward with his life sooner than his daughter.
I’ve based my conclusions on the “Six Basic Needs of a Mourner” by Alan Wolfelt.
Acknowledge the reality of the death. Embrace the pain of the loss. Remember the person who died. Develop a new self-identity. Search for meaning. Receive ongoing support from others.
In Fireweed, Janet has met these needs and offered very helpful suggestions for healing, i.e…pet therapy, candle lighting, journaling, talking to the deceased, going for counseling and sharing with a peer.
Dorothy Leslie – Grief Facilitator and Resource, for Mundell Funeral Home Limited, Orillia, Ontario www.mundellfuneralhome.com
Fireweed is a heartwarming story about a family tragedy. Teenager Renée Grenville lashes out looking for someone to blame. In the end she understands and accepts the support offered by her father, friends and her church family. The characters are believable because they have flaws and they question their faith.
I would like to live in Catalpa Creek, the small town where the Grenvilles live. At least at the school, there is a recognition of diversity. 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.
Diane Claridge – Retired Teacher
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Sample from Fireweed
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.
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.
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…
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FIREWEED: The Birth of the Novel
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. When Tom and I journeyed toTennessee, I used the travel time in the car to add a multitude of chapters. Coming home, I congratulated myself for have 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.
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.
Fireweed is now ready for publication. In many ways, I feel as if I have given birth to a child. I had no intention of writing a novel, but I have done my best, and I’m proud of this creation. 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.