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Only the Women are Burning

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Three women are lost in a single morning, one at a commuter train, one at a school, one while walking her dog in the woods. The police think the women are making some kind of political statement by setting themselves on fire...maybe members of a cult. But Cassandra knows better. You won't rest until Cassandra, a mom and former anthropologist, solves the mystery of these fi Three women are lost in a single morning, one at a commuter train, one at a school, one while walking her dog in the woods. The police think the women are making some kind of political statement by setting themselves on fire...maybe members of a cult. But Cassandra knows better. You won't rest until Cassandra, a mom and former anthropologist, solves the mystery of these fiery deaths. Part mystery, part science fiction, part a suburban domestic novel, Only the Women are Burning ask important questions about women in contemporary suburban lives.


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Three women are lost in a single morning, one at a commuter train, one at a school, one while walking her dog in the woods. The police think the women are making some kind of political statement by setting themselves on fire...maybe members of a cult. But Cassandra knows better. You won't rest until Cassandra, a mom and former anthropologist, solves the mystery of these fi Three women are lost in a single morning, one at a commuter train, one at a school, one while walking her dog in the woods. The police think the women are making some kind of political statement by setting themselves on fire...maybe members of a cult. But Cassandra knows better. You won't rest until Cassandra, a mom and former anthropologist, solves the mystery of these fiery deaths. Part mystery, part science fiction, part a suburban domestic novel, Only the Women are Burning ask important questions about women in contemporary suburban lives.

30 review for Only the Women are Burning

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Burke

    “Weaving impeccable research with an intriguing plotline, Nancy Burke’s Only The Women Are Burning combines love and loss with science and discovery. It’s rare when a story folds facts into an emotional roller-coaster but this novel hits the mark. From India to small-town America, from spontaneous combustion to the explosion of a marriage . . . all told in vibrant prose with poetic edges.” Julie Maloney, award-winning author of A Matter of Chance and Director of Women Reading Aloud, an internati “Weaving impeccable research with an intriguing plotline, Nancy Burke’s Only The Women Are Burning combines love and loss with science and discovery. It’s rare when a story folds facts into an emotional roller-coaster but this novel hits the mark. From India to small-town America, from spontaneous combustion to the explosion of a marriage . . . all told in vibrant prose with poetic edges.” Julie Maloney, award-winning author of A Matter of Chance and Director of Women Reading Aloud, an international writing program for women.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Guylou (Two Dogs and a Book)

    📚 Hello Book Friends! ONLY THE WOMEN ARE BURNING by Nancy Burke was nothing like what I expected. I never read the synopsis in advance so the book can surprise me. Cassie witnessed a wife burning event in India and this has marked her deeply. Many years later, back in America, she witnesses a woman burning to ashes on a train platform for no apparent reason. Many theories arise as more women burn to ashes all around their small town. Is this the work of a cult? Are these women doing this to them 📚 Hello Book Friends! ONLY THE WOMEN ARE BURNING by Nancy Burke was nothing like what I expected. I never read the synopsis in advance so the book can surprise me. Cassie witnessed a wife burning event in India and this has marked her deeply. Many years later, back in America, she witnesses a woman burning to ashes on a train platform for no apparent reason. Many theories arise as more women burn to ashes all around their small town. Is this the work of a cult? Are these women doing this to themselves? Is there a serial killer on the loose causing these deaths? Cassie, former anthropologist before she had her children, is not convinced that this is the work of a cult or a serial killer. Pulling out her thesis on Stonehenge, she will correlate the facts and try to solve the mystery. But is she wrong to use science or is there something more sinister at work? This was a slow read but the science aspect was quite interesting. 🙋🏼‍♀️ Thank you, BOOKS FORWARD for sending me an eARC of this interesting book. ONLY THE WOMEN ARE BURNING by Nancy Burke is now available at your favourite bookstore. #bookstadog #poodles #poodlestagram #poodlesofinstagram #furbabies #dogsofinstagram #bookstagram #dogsandbooks #bookishlife #bookishlove #bookstagrammer #books #booklover #bookish #bookaholic #reading #readersofinstagram #instaread #ilovebooks #bookishcanadians #canadianbookstagram #bookreviewer #bookcommunity #bibliophile #bookphotography #onlythewomenareburning #nancyburke #bookreview

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sydney

    Thank you so much to @booksforwardpr and Apprentice House Publishing for my gifted copy! Only the Women are Burning surprised me in that it combined science fiction, mystery, and family drama so effortlessly! I thought the science/research aspect was fascinating and lended the book more credibility/realism, although I know many readers found it to be a bit dense. I appreciated that the author thoroughly explained the issue and hinted at different pieces throughout the novel. I will say though, C Thank you so much to @booksforwardpr and Apprentice House Publishing for my gifted copy! Only the Women are Burning surprised me in that it combined science fiction, mystery, and family drama so effortlessly! I thought the science/research aspect was fascinating and lended the book more credibility/realism, although I know many readers found it to be a bit dense. I appreciated that the author thoroughly explained the issue and hinted at different pieces throughout the novel. I will say though, Cassandra’s husband Pete was such an ass and I know that was probably intentional but damn! I felt like the personal storyline regarding her marriage distracted from the far more interesting mystery of why the women were burning. I enjoyed the author’s writing style and the novel kept me engaged the entire time, following Cassandra’s investigation to the very end.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Keshia

    3.5 stars for Only the Women are Burning. Thank you to goodreads and the author for sending me this book to enjoy! I am an anthropologist myself so when I read the premise of this book I was instantly drawn to it. The beginning of the book was excellent and drew me right into the story. I honestly wasn't expecting the twist of what the cause of the women burning was and without any spoilers I'll say that it was interesting. My reasoning for 3 stars fell more with the writing style as opposed to 3.5 stars for Only the Women are Burning. Thank you to goodreads and the author for sending me this book to enjoy! I am an anthropologist myself so when I read the premise of this book I was instantly drawn to it. The beginning of the book was excellent and drew me right into the story. I honestly wasn't expecting the twist of what the cause of the women burning was and without any spoilers I'll say that it was interesting. My reasoning for 3 stars fell more with the writing style as opposed to the story arc itself. It's a cool premise, with science and mystery but I fell out of the story by the constant style of ending every conversation sentence with "I said" "he replied" "she said" "they remarked" . I think most readers can follow a conversation in a book without having to be told who is talking after most sentences. Some of the characters in the book were just not believable. As a parent of 4, listening to some of the questions that kids asked at the museum made me eye roll. I'm sorry but it's just not believable to me that these kids happened to ask questions relating to the mysterious causes that jogged Cassie's brain to figure out why these fires were starting. Also her own children, perfect angels who get ice cream and popcorn while sitting at another table so she can have a conversation, a teenager who fights back a little bit but agrees with mom no longer being a house servant after a silly argument... it was just very basic level character development that I think could really be expanded on to make them more relatable. Regarding Pete, whew that story took a turn I was not expecting. I really hated their whole marriage and him but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. I enjoy hating a character in a book because it makes me feel something. Although I don't think anyone could be that cold and passive aggressive in real life but it made for an interesting sub plot. All in all I would read this book again because finding out why Only the Women are Burning was quite a trip.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lizbeth

    Ms. Burke's novel is not one that you should expect to finish in a short time. It is deep, emotional, and intense. Descriptive prose that pulls you into a mystery that will keep you wondering exactly what is happening. 4 out of 5 stars. Recommended reading. Ms. Burke's novel is not one that you should expect to finish in a short time. It is deep, emotional, and intense. Descriptive prose that pulls you into a mystery that will keep you wondering exactly what is happening. 4 out of 5 stars. Recommended reading.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    What a unique premise - women all over are spontaneously bursting into flame with no rhyme or reason leaving behind only a pile of ash and the clothes on their backs. The title alone speaks volumes to me as a woman, wife and working mother. Many times it feels like you're burning the candle at both ends. So, fascinating as this fire concept is, what drew me in deeper was the layers of feminism, culture and family. This is, pardon the pun, a slow burn but a good one. It kept me wondering the caus What a unique premise - women all over are spontaneously bursting into flame with no rhyme or reason leaving behind only a pile of ash and the clothes on their backs. The title alone speaks volumes to me as a woman, wife and working mother. Many times it feels like you're burning the candle at both ends. So, fascinating as this fire concept is, what drew me in deeper was the layers of feminism, culture and family. This is, pardon the pun, a slow burn but a good one. It kept me wondering the cause throughout as well as evoked a strong desire to protect the main character from judgement on her choices. A well thought out novel that I hope you'll pick up soon!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    I'll be honest, this book surprised me. I received it as an arc from Books Forward, and I requested it because I was intrigued by the mystery of the title. And then upon reading the synopsis, I was even more excited about the mystery of why these women were burning. But what surprised me was that this book was not, at its heart, about burning women, but more about women's issues, and family drama. I so appreciated the fact that the author wove some deep seeded issues that women face in their fam I'll be honest, this book surprised me. I received it as an arc from Books Forward, and I requested it because I was intrigued by the mystery of the title. And then upon reading the synopsis, I was even more excited about the mystery of why these women were burning. But what surprised me was that this book was not, at its heart, about burning women, but more about women's issues, and family drama. I so appreciated the fact that the author wove some deep seeded issues that women face in their families and in society, into this book. I got so much more out of it then I ever expected. The only reason I didn't rate it 5 stars, is that I got a little bogged down with the science. But that's just me. I would still highly recommend this book!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Eva Hnizdo

    It looked like a modern feminist story, East coast, family relations, some good some bad. Academic career sacrificed for family. but then the explanation of weird symbolic flame of those burning women was based on science, and the neglected academic brain shone. Good book, full of surprises.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brandy {The Review Booth}

    This book captures marital issues so well it made my heart hurt. Especially both sexes' apparent inability to talk about how we feel and the various barriers we erect (obviously not the case for everyone). Only the Women are Burning and Cassandra are so many things - marital issues, sacrificing oneself for family, the sorrow of losing friends, and desire to prove oneself. I was not expecting this book to be so perfectly one part science fiction, one part mystery, and one part family drama. The p This book captures marital issues so well it made my heart hurt. Especially both sexes' apparent inability to talk about how we feel and the various barriers we erect (obviously not the case for everyone). Only the Women are Burning and Cassandra are so many things - marital issues, sacrificing oneself for family, the sorrow of losing friends, and desire to prove oneself. I was not expecting this book to be so perfectly one part science fiction, one part mystery, and one part family drama. The prologue was the only jarring aspect of this book, I understand why the book starts there but it was a lot of information and people to take in at the beginning of a story. Cassandra and her family are so humanly real for fictional characters - their family could be ANY family. Like Cassandra, I decided to stay at home to raise my daughter as well. I haven't a connection that strong with a character in a long while and I understood her desire to unearth her long underused talents she put aside to raise her kids. The revelation she experiences regarding her husband was entirely unexpected. I was also surprised at the truth behind the burning women - it was well thought out and although hinted at it required several things to be tied together for it to make sense. I was completely surprised at this book and I LOVED it. I would highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy mystery, family drama, and science fiction. I will be adding a physical copy of this book to my library. A very big thank you to Books Forward PR, Apprentice House and Nancy Burke for the opportunity to read Only the Women are Burning - all opinions are my own.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Anderson-Pagal

    Thank you to Books Forward for the gifted copy! I liked this story. I liked the realism mixed with the sci-fi element. The characters were likeable, you rooted for the main character, you felt for her. The book was well written and well researched!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    Burke manages to create a believable background of suburban life while injecting mystery, science, family drama, social commentary, and constant anticipation of horror. The characters are recognizable, and the conflicts between them ring true. The various challenges and disappointments experienced by comfortably-middle-class women intertwine with the well-researched science and not-so-mundane events throughout the novel. Readers will pay close attention as Cassandra works through her hypotheses Burke manages to create a believable background of suburban life while injecting mystery, science, family drama, social commentary, and constant anticipation of horror. The characters are recognizable, and the conflicts between them ring true. The various challenges and disappointments experienced by comfortably-middle-class women intertwine with the well-researched science and not-so-mundane events throughout the novel. Readers will pay close attention as Cassandra works through her hypotheses to solve the mystery of why Hillston women are burning. Full post with author interview: https://baristanet.com/2020/10/only-t...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Paige

    When I requested Only The Women are Burning by Nancy Burke from @booksforwardpr, I knew very little about the book, but I thought the premise sounded interesting. Women burning. Combusting. Simultaneously. Is it a political statement? A cult? A natural phenomenon? Or something else? It is, at its core, a mystery, imbued with fascinating history and religious and mythological symbolism. The writing is intelligent and thought-provoking--why is it that only the women ever burn? From self-immolation When I requested Only The Women are Burning by Nancy Burke from @booksforwardpr, I knew very little about the book, but I thought the premise sounded interesting. Women burning. Combusting. Simultaneously. Is it a political statement? A cult? A natural phenomenon? Or something else? It is, at its core, a mystery, imbued with fascinating history and religious and mythological symbolism. The writing is intelligent and thought-provoking--why is it that only the women ever burn? From self-immolation in India to the burning of witches, in folklore and fairy tales, women and fire are constant companions. As more and more women catch fire in this small New Jersey town, the urgency Cassandra, our protagonist, feels to solve the mystery increases. I feel like the author did an excellent job of showing how fear can affect behaviors, and how people respond to trauma differently. The women in the community all respond to this new “threat” in different ways, with different levels of fear and anxiety. I appreciated the strength of the main character. She’s a mom who gave up her work to raise her children, but her investigation into the fires sparks a renewed passion for the things she gave up years ago, and prompts her to reevaluate things she’d assumed were immutable. The scientific elements of the book can make it feel a bit dense and clunky at times, and I felt like the plotline involving Cassandra’s dissolving marriage detracted from the main focus of the book. Their relationship is an unhealthy one; her husband is emotionally manipulative, and he constantly gaslights her, making her doubt herself, which could be triggering to some readers. Overall, though, this book and all its various pieces work well--a very well researched, carefully crafted mystery, which kept me engaged through to the end.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Spinkysaurus Bri

    This book was well-written and had a great start! The concept of the story was very promising, but I'm not sure it hit it's full potential for me. Women are spontaneously combusting in a small New Jersey town and nobody knows why. Cassandra, a housewife who gave up her career to raise her kids, has her own passion sparked again by investigating the phenomenon. Nancy Burke writes an intelligent and thought provoking novel. There is some dense scientific foundations in it, and most of the action ha This book was well-written and had a great start! The concept of the story was very promising, but I'm not sure it hit it's full potential for me. Women are spontaneously combusting in a small New Jersey town and nobody knows why. Cassandra, a housewife who gave up her career to raise her kids, has her own passion sparked again by investigating the phenomenon. Nancy Burke writes an intelligent and thought provoking novel. There is some dense scientific foundations in it, and most of the action happens at the start. I did really enjoy the style of writing. All in all this is a good book, it's just a slower, more involved read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Angie

    Full review can be found here: https://www.criminalelement.com/book-... Full review can be found here: https://www.criminalelement.com/book-...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marjorie Taylor

    Only the Women are Burning is a page-turner! Combining mystery with anthropology, and science fiction with the realities of contemporary life, the author presents a thoughtful allegory. The narrator experiences a similar fate as her namesake, Cassandra, who in Greek mythology was destined to foresee the future and have no one believe her. The Cassandra in this book tries to convince others of the truth of the unspeakable horror she has witnessed, but even those closest to her won’t listen. The v Only the Women are Burning is a page-turner! Combining mystery with anthropology, and science fiction with the realities of contemporary life, the author presents a thoughtful allegory. The narrator experiences a similar fate as her namesake, Cassandra, who in Greek mythology was destined to foresee the future and have no one believe her. The Cassandra in this book tries to convince others of the truth of the unspeakable horror she has witnessed, but even those closest to her won’t listen. The voice in this book is an authentic expression of how it feels to be unheard, to have her motivations questioned, and at times to feel like an outlier in her own life. The terrifying occurrences of women burning, along with the various legends surrounding this phenomenon, combine with the complexities of culture, friendship, and family, to make this a thrilling novel.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    This was a super interesting concept that had a lot of potential. However, it felt like all of the “action” happened up front, which left a lot of the “what happened” for the rest of the book. I got lost (and bored) with the science of trying to prove things. Plus, add in yet another couple with marital issues and the woman estranged from her family...she’s become a flat character.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rupert Nacoste

    It is not a COVID-19 pandemic novel. Yet, “Only The Women Are Burning” sometimes makes you think of the pandemic. “Spontaneous human combustion.” Imagine that over one week, five women burst into flames and only leave behind the close they had been wearing. Now people are wary about an unseen force at work. Children are worried about their mothers; husbands are worried about their wives; siblings are worried about their siblings; neighbors are worried about their neighbors. And women are worrie It is not a COVID-19 pandemic novel. Yet, “Only The Women Are Burning” sometimes makes you think of the pandemic. “Spontaneous human combustion.” Imagine that over one week, five women burst into flames and only leave behind the close they had been wearing. Now people are wary about an unseen force at work. Children are worried about their mothers; husbands are worried about their wives; siblings are worried about their siblings; neighbors are worried about their neighbors. And women are worried about themselves because “…only women are burning.” Worry about an unseen force feels so familiar right now. It echoes through this novel, where at a certain point in the story the author writes: “[That woman] was probably anxious because she was outside and just wanted to get safely to wherever she was going. I could feel it, a few minutes later, as others crossed the parking lot to the Y, walking fast, heads down, or furtively searching nearby for anything or anyone who could hurt them. Fear and more fear.” Here we have a story that deftly blends science fiction and domestic life to tell a story about living false, unfulfilling lives. At various points you begin to thing this is some kind of bizarre psychological phenomena in which women who are desperately for a real life flee by bursting into flames. Even our main character, Cassandra, has a relationship problem with a husband who is so distant it hurts you to read about their “life together.” Is she just going to burst into flames too? Instead, she reignites her intellectual self and her academic background that she had set aside, to investigate what is really going on. When Cassandra does that, the way she feels about herself and her life changes. She muses: “All my recent feelings of having been trapped into a life as a role instead of as a person began to ebb.” Her use of her academic abilities leads to a discovery of a physical, scientific explanation that is surprising, very compelling and convincing. At times meditative, “Only The Women Are Burning, is a gripping story, thoughtful and well told. Highly recommended.

  18. 5 out of 5

    La Femme Readers

    Three women mysteriously catch on fire during their everyday activities. Are they purposely trying to make a statement of some kind, or is there a scientific explanation behind these ignitable deaths? After witnessing one of these horrific losses, Cassandra sparked an interest in these unexplained occurrences. She will not rest until these strange, fiery deaths are justified, even if she has to surpass boundaries to be heard. Can you imagine standing on the train platform, and all of a sudden, a Three women mysteriously catch on fire during their everyday activities. Are they purposely trying to make a statement of some kind, or is there a scientific explanation behind these ignitable deaths? After witnessing one of these horrific losses, Cassandra sparked an interest in these unexplained occurrences. She will not rest until these strange, fiery deaths are justified, even if she has to surpass boundaries to be heard. Can you imagine standing on the train platform, and all of a sudden, a woman erupts in flames? If I were in Cassandra's shoes, I would have freaked out! Instead of letting that moment scar her, she gathers up the strength to dig into this unusual phenomenon. People will make their assumptions when it comes to abnormal situations, but Cassandra will not be silenced. I adored this woman's ability to push through the noise and voice her opinion, no matter what. She's the type of female character who usually speaks to me, and I applaud Nancy Burke in creating a strong, relatable female figure. Although the premise originated as a mystery, it also overlapped domestic, family issues, and scientific exploration. Cassandra's household held realistic subjects that we could all correlate with, especially as women. As for the scientific aspects of the novel, I did find it a bit dull. Science was never my forte, so it did bring a slow-burn element to the plot in those moments. All in all, Nancy delivered an original story with a multi-dimensional narrative. You should pick up Only the Women are Burning if you're a fan of well-thought-out mysteries with a layered outline and a robust and feministic flare.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mary Scanlon

    Thanks to BooksforwardPR and the publisher for the copy to read and review. In the suburbs of New Jersey, women are bursting into flames and authorities have no idea why. The main character, Cassandra, is a housewife who happens to be in the right place at the right time and catches one of the first burnings in person. Cassandra looks into what could be causing only to find a truly natural reason for the deaths. The premise of this book caught my attention and made me curious as to how the author Thanks to BooksforwardPR and the publisher for the copy to read and review. In the suburbs of New Jersey, women are bursting into flames and authorities have no idea why. The main character, Cassandra, is a housewife who happens to be in the right place at the right time and catches one of the first burnings in person. Cassandra looks into what could be causing only to find a truly natural reason for the deaths. The premise of this book caught my attention and made me curious as to how the author would handle the topic. Sadly, it was very different then what I thought it would be. I found the story to be slow and had far too many side stories while the main plot was convoluted enough. It shows that the author carried about the topic as she put the time into explaining the thoughts behind Cassandra's theories and why she felt the way she did. This story will have many fans but I believe it was just not enough to make me interested in reading more.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    A story about a woman who decided to give up her PhD aspirations to have an (unplanned) baby and live life as a full time mom, even though she knew deep down it was not what she wanted. I was impressed with how real and raw the characters—particularly when Pete continuously gaslight Cass. It was uncomfortable to read but that is what made it so good. The story is about what women are asked or rather what it is assumed women give up when kids enter into (& how those same expectations do not exsis A story about a woman who decided to give up her PhD aspirations to have an (unplanned) baby and live life as a full time mom, even though she knew deep down it was not what she wanted. I was impressed with how real and raw the characters—particularly when Pete continuously gaslight Cass. It was uncomfortable to read but that is what made it so good. The story is about what women are asked or rather what it is assumed women give up when kids enter into (& how those same expectations do not exsist for men). It feels like it just...happens...unless you fight against it which is shown well throughout the novel. Always fun to read about smart women who save the day too! :) Highly recommend!!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Halverson

    The idea of women spontaneously bursting into flame grabbed my attention right off the bat. While it had a lot of potential, I feel like it missed its mark a bit. This is is definitely a slow burn. It had some really interesting ideas but if I am being honest it went way too heavy on the science for me to stay fully engaged. I do feel like the author did a lot of research and was very thorough in explaining the reasoning for things happening. It was just more complicated and detailed than I want The idea of women spontaneously bursting into flame grabbed my attention right off the bat. While it had a lot of potential, I feel like it missed its mark a bit. This is is definitely a slow burn. It had some really interesting ideas but if I am being honest it went way too heavy on the science for me to stay fully engaged. I do feel like the author did a lot of research and was very thorough in explaining the reasoning for things happening. It was just more complicated and detailed than I wanted to know. Thanks to Books Forward for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Williamson Rosenberg

    Recommended! Gripping plot, deeply engaging. Rest of the review pending.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Cheresnick

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nomski

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jen

  26. 5 out of 5

    LauraSue

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dossie Elliott

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ariel

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  30. 5 out of 5

    Aalisha

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