After the Fire: A True Story of Love and Survival

Robin Gaby Fisher, Author . Little, Brown $24.99 (261p) ISBN 978-0-316-06621-1

Three students died and 58 were injured in the January 2000 fire that arsonists set in the student lounge of Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Newark Star Ledger reporter Fisher tells the story of the two “most badly burned” survivors (roommates Shawn Simons and Alvaro Llanos), proceeding from the devastating fire through the grueling medical treatment into their life-affirming future. A medical education and a detective story unfold within this consistently dramatic account, as Fisher joins a reporter's curiosity and objectivity to a near-familial access to the principals. Unsparing in her description of the hard path to recovery (“The gruesome nature of the work meant that few ever became old-timers in the occupation of treating burns”), Fisher takes the reader inside Saint Barnabas Burn Center, where the charismatic director of the burn unit, Hani Mansour; the nurses; the physical and occupational therapists work miracles, celebrating victories and agonizing over setbacks. Honest and intimate in her account of the stress of “distraught parents,” the intense strain upon marriages and relationships, the prolonged suffering and multiple surgeries of the survivors and the evolving friendship of the accidental roommates, Fisher conveys a deep respect and compassion for all involved—except the arsonists. She succeeds in making what might have been yesterday's news into today's inspiration. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 06/30/2008
Release date: 08/01/2008
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