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After the Fire: A True Story of Love and Survival

After the Fire: A True Story of Love and Survival

by Robin Gaby Fisher
On January 19, 2000, a fire raged through SetonHallUniversity's freshman dormitory, killing three students and injuring 58 others. Among the victims were Shawn Simons


On January 19, 2000, a fire raged through SetonHallUniversity's freshman dormitory, killing three students and injuring 58 others. Among the victims were Shawn Simons and Alvaro Llanos, roommates from poor neighborhoods who made their families proud by getting into college. They managed to escape, but both were burned terribly. AFTER THE FIRE is the story of these young men and their courageous fight to recover from the worst damage the burn unit at Saint Barnabas hospital had ever seen. It is the story of the extraordinary doctors and nurses who work with the burned. It is the story of mothers and fathers, of faith and family and the invisible ties that bind us to each other. It is the story of the search for the arsonists--and the elaborate cover-up that nearly obscured the truth. And it is the story of the women who came to love these men, who knew that real beauty is a thing not seen in mirrors.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

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.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Expanded from her series of articles in the Newark Star-Ledger, Pulitzer Prize finalist Fisher's first book follows freshman roommates, badly burned in the January 2000 Seton Hall University dorm fire, as they recover and rebuild their lives. Writing in a straightforward, reportorial style, the author chronicles the ordeal of Shawn Simons and Alvaro Llanos, illustrates their lighthearted personalities and loving friendship and rounds out the picture by including the perspectives of their families, the head of the burn unit at Saint Barnabas Hospital and the burn nurses. This action-driven, summarizing approach works well for straight narrative, but falls short in examining the complex psychological difficulties Shawn and Alvaro suffered after experiencing such a massive trauma so early in their lives. Essential questions are answered simplistically. What is it like for a carefree, handsome young man to be suddenly disfigured and to lose his youthful sense of invincibility? It's difficult, the author tells us. How do parents cope when their beloved sons might die? Big surprise: Well-adjusted people do better than anxious ones. The author glosses over an unplanned pregnancy and the undercurrent of class conflict in the attendant arson case. Fisher's heroic portraits of Shawn and Alvaro are similarly airbrushed; more recognition of their human fallibility would increase the text's realism and impact. The strongest material deals with Alvaro's 17-year-old girlfriend Angie, too young to deal well with the changes his injuries bring. Fisher's account of their devolving relationship enhances readers' emotional understanding of the fire's effect on its victims in a way that the rest of thebook does not. Dramatic but shallow. Agent: Peter McGuigan/Foundry Literary + Media

Product Details

Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Unabridged, 5 CDs, 6 hours
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 5.70(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Robin Gaby Fisher is a nationally acclaimed news feature writer with The Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey. She has been a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a member of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team.

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