Hestia Strikes a Match
by Christine Grillo
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Pub Date 18 Apr 2023 | Archive Date 31 May 2023
Christine Grillo's Hestia Strikes a Match is the slyly funny story of a woman looking for love and friendship in the midst of a new American civil war.
Unionists against Confederates, children against parents, friends against friends: The year is 2023 and the United States has collapsed into another bloody civil war. Hestia Harris is forty, newly single by virtue of abandonment for the Union cause, and her parents are absconding to the Confederacy. She is adrift, save for her coworkers at the retirement village and her best friend, Mildred, an eighty-four-year-old resident, who gleefully supports Hestia’s somewhat half-hearted but nonetheless hopeful attempts to find love in a time of chaos and disunion. Let’s Not Date a Confederate! Hestia avers as her parents put up a sign proclaiming Make Liberals Feel Sad and Mildred reminds her It’ll pass . . . It always does.
For fans of Maria Semple, Andrew Sean Greer, Ling Ma, and Gail Honeyman, Christine Grillo's Hestia Strikes a Match is an irreverent, incisive, laugh-out-loud interrogation of modern love of all kinds, in all its messy beauty. As it fills your heart to fend off despair, it asks the seemingly ever-relevant question: How do you embrace an entire life when the whole world is breaking into bits and madness?
“An extraordinary debut about an extraordinary time, Hestia Strikes a Match delighted me and made me laugh out loud and tear up at the same time. Christine Grillo combines wry satire with a moving story of how we form bonds of love and friendship even as the world around us is crumbling. Hestia is everything I could wish for in a character—quirky, smart, infuriating, broken, wise, and funny as hell—and I wish she were real so I could meet her for a drink and stay in her world a little longer.”
—Angie Kim, author of Miracle Creek
“Christine Grillo’s extremely wise and deeply funny novel, Hestia Strikes a Match, gives us something much more necessary than yet another dystopian novel belatedly trying to wake us up to the always-already. She gives us a riotously irreverent, effortlessly firecracking pair of Socratic dialogues: one between generations debating how to find love or whether to seek it at all, and the other between citizens trying to figure out how to save their country. One of the great pleasures of this novel is watching as Hestia, who feels muddled and stuck, comes into her own as an unshakable moral center.”
—Carlene Bauer, author of Girls They Write Songs About
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Average rating from 8 members
You know a book is good when you feel like you've lost a friend after finishing the last page. Even though the narrator didn't have the brightest outlook on life, her humor more than made up for it.
It's 2023, year of a modern American civil war, with the Southern seceding to form their own country. There are bombings of all sorts, and of course all forms of bigotry and name-calling between the two factions. An extremely anxiety-inducing app sends out real-time/batched alerts about dangers in one's neighborhood.
In the midst of the chaos, Hestia jumps from boyfriend to boyfriend, dumping them immediately once things feel too comfortable. She works in a nursing home, encouraging residents to participate in an oral history project that will be shared with their families. The one other conflict in her life involves her parents, whom she calls by their first names. They are former academics who criticize nearly every aspect of Hestia's life. Oh, and their political loyalties (as Confederates) are opposite hers, leading to estrangement.
This was sprinkled with life wisdom from nursing home residents, hilarious romantic entanglements gone wrong, and ultimately the warmth of friendship in the most unexpected moments. The cast of characters was quirky but believable. It was lovely and refreshing—I'd highly recommend.
Hestia Harris uses mainly two apps on her smartphone: one is checking for terrorist threats in the area, and the other is … a dating app. It’s 2023, and the United States is in the middle of a civil war. The country was divided; some states were pro-Union, while others separated and called themselves the New Confederates States of America. Families are divided, life-long friendships are dissolved, and Hestia’s marriage is another casualty of the war.
The description of the background of Christine Grillo’s novel “Hestia Strikes a Match” paints a bleak picture, yet the book is funny, even if it’s often dark humor. Hestia, whose parents named her after a Roman goddess of the family life, and the state order, is 40 years old, very independent, and searching for companionship, perhaps even for love but mainly just trying to enjoy life and navigate the new, scary situation. Her choice of boyfriends is not always right on target, but her description of their personalities is always hilarious. She is a very nurturing person working at a retirement village where she befriends an elderly lady, Mildred. Mildred likes to sneak out to smoke and share her wisdom about life and men. Just as Hestia strikes a match lighting Mildred’s cigarette, she hopes to strike a match on her smartphone dating app.
It’s a novel that can be read on many levels – a dystopian story, a cautionary tale, and a great read with a heroine as lovable as Bridget Jones. I loved it. Easy to read, it is thought-provoking and entertaining at the same time. One can’t escape thinking, “what if something like this happens” looking at the country described in the book. The scenes in the novel bring memories of photos we saw in the newspapers not so long ago, and Hestia is not just trying to live despite the situation; she tries to find her happiness and help others. The musings the elderly residents put in writing are beautiful reminders that life goes on. As Mildred says, when Hestia is heartbroken: “Oh dear, Hestia, you fell in love, it’s not the worst disaster. It’ll pass. (…) It always does. (…) We are very adaptable creatures.”
A bleak, hilarious, and thought-provoking novel about the United States falling apart and one woman’s quest to find romance and friendship and pass the time. It is 2023 and the United States is in the midst of a violent civil war. Hestia is 42, living in Maryland, and just wants to find some companionship. Sure the world is pretty much on fire but there is still time for some ill-fated dating.
I adored Hestia - she is charming, kind, self-deprecating, and a wonderful friend. The writing was utterly absorbing and achieves a tricky balance of horrifying scenarios and humor. The story explores a nightmare scenario that somehow doesn’t seem that far-fetched given the current political discourse. This is a fresh, exhilarating read that I highly recommend. What an exciting debut novel.
Thank you very much to @fsgbooks and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an advance copy.
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