“What a finely made, complex, and wholly engrossing novel this is. The people who inhabit Things We Set on Fire seem to be squeezed into some catastrophic critical mass, like the Big Bang in reverse, and yet the prose is completely under control, precise and lucid, sometimes electric with nuance, sometimes strangely musical, and always convincing. The moral pressures on these characters become almost unbearable, yet the radiance of grace and pardon and understanding shines on. Reed has given us a beautiful book.”
–Tim O’ Brien, author of The Things They Carried, and winner of the National Book Award for Going After Cacciato.
“Reed is fearless in nudging her characters toward disaster, and the reader follows with a thumping heart, confident in the story’s authoritative prose and, ultimately, redeeming spirit. I was genuinely moved by this novel, and recommend it highly.”
– Antonya Nelson, author of Bound: A Novel and Some Fun: Stories and a Novella
BOOKLIST – ”In Reed’s engrossing examination of one family’s lifelong meltdown and possible resurrection, Vivien “Vivvie” Fenton’s story begins with a dark implication about the death of her husband 30 years ago in a hunting accident. Vivvie’s two adult daughters, Kate and Elin, have long since flown the coop in desperate efforts to find happiness. When Vivvie receives very unexpected word that Kate is in the hospital and that her own two young daughters need someone to come get them, the past and all its wounds threaten to smash everyone’s lives yet again. Elin’s somewhat orderly life on the other side of the country is wildly upset when Vivvie calls her and begs for her help with her two nieces as Kate lingers on the precipice between life and death. The entanglements of a family burdened with dark secrets, personal motives, and an eventual implosion that still rocks each of their lives to the core quickly surface in the face of this new tragedy, propelling the story and its irresistible characters. Suggest this one to fans of Elizabeth Strout.”
“With striking lyricism, sly humor, and great sympathy for her finely drawn characters, Deborah Reed has written a beautiful novel about family and forgiveness in Things We Set on Fire. I couldn’t put it down, which is the kind of problem that I think every book lover hopes for.”
–Christine Sneed, author of Little Known Facts and Portraits of a Few of the People I’ve Made Cry
“Deborah Reed is one of my favorite new writers, and Things We Set on Fire would be an excellent introduction to her work, if you are still among the uninitiated. Here we have three generations of women, separated by space and circumstance, unexpectedly pulled back into each other’s lives as though sucked into a vortex. And this is where Reed takes us: the eye of the family storm. From the intense opening scene of this kaleidoscopic, largehearted novel to its last page, there’s not a dull moment here, folks.”
–John McNally, author of After the Workshop
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