Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"The Arsonist," by Sue Miller

I have read most of Sue Miller’s novels over the years, and I can’t remember ever reading one that didn’t catch me up and keep me reading. “The Arsonist” (Knopf, 2014) is no exception. I gave over most of a recent Sunday to reading this engrossing novel; my long to-do list went by the wayside that day. I never start off – with Miller’s or any other novels – thinking I will read all day, but somehow “just one more chapter,” and “just a little longer” somehow becomes “how did several hours just slip away?” “The Arsonist” is about many topics – arson, fear, mystery, family, new love, Alzheimer’s, Africa, aid work, small towns, summer homes, the tensions between townspeople and summer people, and more – but a unifying theme is finding hope in the midst of loss. The main character, Frankie, has decided after 15 years of aid work in Africa to come home, perhaps for good. She is staying at her family’s summer home in New Hampshire, where she is trying to figure out her next steps; there she starts to tentatively become involved with a local man. The novel's title refers to the fact that over a dozen families in the area lose their homes to suspicious fires. Meanwhile, Frankie's father, Alfie, is losing his memory and appears to have Alzheimer’s. Her mother, Sylvia, is dealing with acknowledging that she stopped loving her husband years ago, long before the dementia began. The young man Tink has had a desolate childhood and lives alone in a mobile home on a beautiful but isolated plateau. Others have their own stories of loss. But there are also so many human connections, so much community, and so much kindness, and these at least sometimes ameliorate the losses.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Site Meter