Books Magazine

Ash Wednesday by Paula McLain

By Pamelascott

In this wrenching short story based on a real-life tragedy near Cleveland, Ohio, New York Times bestselling author Paula McLain reflects on one family's perseverance in the face of the unthinkable.

On Ash Wednesday in 1908, Swiss German immigrant Fritz Hirter arrives at his children's school, where he is the lone custodian. But soon after lessons start, a fast-moving fire breaks out-its cause is unknown, but its effects are horrifying. Although Fritz is soon cleared of any responsibility for the catastrophe, the community continues to suspect him, supremely testing Fritz and his family.

Paula McLain's Ash Wednesday is part of A Point in Time, a transporting collection of stories about the pivotal moments, past and present, that change lives. Read or listen to each immersive story in a single sitting.


Fritz Hirter ducks his chin into his woollen scarf as he walks the two blocks up Collamer Street toward the school, stuffing his hands with their pink chilblains, deep in his pockets.


(Amazon Original Stories, 28 July 2022, ebook, 37 pages, borrowed from @AmazonKindle, #PrimeReading, A Point in Time #2)



This is a new author for me. I really enjoyed Ash Wednesday. The story is sparse at only 37 pages but so much happens it felt like I read something much longer. I knew nothing about the actual events that inspired this story so I was fascinated by the note at the end from the author which outlined the real events and how these came to inspire the story. I found this story incredibly sad, both recounting the number of people who died and the way Fritz is treated in the aftermath.

Wednesday Paula McLain

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