By: Angie Haddock
Lillian and Madison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their elite boarding school. But then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly… and they’ve barely spoken since. Until now, when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help.
Madison’s twin stepkids are moving in with her family and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, there’s a catch: the twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin in a startling but beautiful way.
Everything I’d seen about this one going in prepared me for it being comedic. I didn’t realize, however, that it takes place in Franklin, TN – which is only about 30 minutes from where I live! So that did add an extra layer of fun for me.
Lillian leads a slacker life – working at a grocery store, living in her mom’s attic. When she was a teen, she had dreamed of getting out of her hometown, doing bigger things, and proving everyone wrong. But now she’s nearing 30, and doesn’t know what she wants out of life.
Madison is rich, married to a U.S. Senator, and has a seemingly perfect toddler named Timothy. She reaches out to Lillian occasionally. Lillian loves and admires Madison, but also keeps her at a distance. She’s a constant reminder of how much Lillian hasn’t accomplished since their school days.
But when Madison offers Lillian a job, she accepts without even knowing what the job is. Enter the “fire twins,” Bessie and Roland. Lillian also enters into a world that includes a posh mansion, with a guest house for her and the twins. A few quirky servants round out life on Madison’s premises.
Lillian knows nothing about raising kids, but she figures she should try to earn their trust first. She lets them eat sugary cereal, reads them mystery novels, and teaches them about her favorite past time, basketball. She does earn their trust, in small increments, and she starts to learn more about them… including how their mom committed suicide in front of them.
All along, the Senator has been blaming their mom (his first wife) for their condition. After all, she was crazy, so the fire thing must come from her side of the family. And Madison is all too willing to send them to boarding school in Europe, where they’d be far away from the perfect family of three that she’s cultivated.
So imagine the confusion and shock when Timothy bursts into flames on live TV. Madison isn’t about to have her child taken from her, or sent off to be studied. So now, she has to rethink her stance on the twins, as well.
This book was both absurd and poignant. A lot of it is about comparing the haves and the have-nots, and how they have different priorities. It’s also about trust, being accepted for who you are, and figuring out what’s important.