FIRE Book Review: Heaven Adjacent

This Summer New York Times bestselling author Catherine Ryan Hyde is releasing a book which anyone interested in FIRE principals should read. Heaven Adjacent is not the easiest book to slog through, even if you’re a fiction fan it will really hit home to anyone considering whether or not FIRE is worth your time, especially if you’re struggling to figure out the financials of doing so.

Heaven Adjacent by [Hyde, Catherine Ryan]


The book is about Roseanna, a high flying NYC lawyer with her own successful firm a few years from retirement. While it jumps around a lot, the gist of the book is that overnight at the ripe age of 53 she ran away from home, something that many young people dream of doing. She simply drove until her car ran out of gas and found “heaven”, or a rather rundown farm for sale in the Adirondacks. She begins to sculpt her life (and the junk lying around the farm) with the sole goal of making herself happy and begins to try and find meaning and happiness in a life that has, before now, been devoted to earning money with the sole purpose of retirement.

Her life before is filled with everything to be expected, an uptown condo, a maserati, a dye job and permanent dieting which has left her feeling constricted. There are people she meets along the way and people she has from her old life and it becomes a tug of war between trying to reason with those intent on bringing her back and reason whether she really hates the new life she’s embracing knowing it’s good for her soul.

Many people who are looking into FIRE have to wonder if they’re going to be happy. By choosing to be frugal and giving up frivolities to a certain extent some of us may feel denied and that we are “giving it up” just like the outsiders who are trying to drag Roseanna back to her successful life in the city. Her response is very simple – “I have what I need”. FIRE principals are about doing just that, living with what you need so that you can live a more comfortable life longer rather than an extravagant one that must be scaled down later.

Throughout the book there are references to the absent Alice, Rosanna’s partner in the firm. The character of Alice is a very important one and she represents what many people today hope for. She works hard, denying herself happiness in the hope of the day she retires when she can finally “have fun”. Only that day never comes and she dies before it can happen.

Life expectancy these days is pretty good, but how many people spend 20-30 or more years slaving away unhappily in a job they hate so that they may one day retire and never make it that far because of something sudden?

It’s a book with a very good lesson about why you should consider FIRE principals and getting out of the financial race and a comparison of the two sides that most people consider when it comes to frugal living. The book raises a lot of good questions that people considering FIRE should think about – Are you happy? What do you really need to be happy? Is there a difference between being frugal and being deprived? What is happiness?  Will money make you happy?

Roseanna herself is extremely sure of her decision from the moment she takes it, something few of us have the pleasure of when debating fire. The catalyst of Alice’s death easily allows her a before/after mindframe which you may not have when debating making the move to FIRE principals. This surety allows her to weather the questioning and pull of her old, successful life at first but by the end of the book it’s the fact that she’s clearly figured out where her happiness lies that keeps her there.

Whether you’re ready to commit or not this book is a great premise to why you should consider FIRE financially and if you’re not it might give you some insight about changing things to make yourself happier, even if that’s not a ramshackle farm in the country.

FIRE Book Review: Heaven Adjacent

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