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An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clarke November 5, 2007

Posted by bookgoddess in Books, Fiction, Literature, Reading.
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I recently finished reading An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clarke, and I want to recommend it to you.  It’s highly readable, carrying the reader along as it deals with the sad, the amusing, the touching, and the downright tragic.  Try to put expectations aside as you read this book and just let yourself encounter it.  (Among other things, the academic satire is pretty hilarious.)

Sam Pulsifer is a fairly ordinary young man who accidentally burns down the Emily Dickinson home and unknowingly kills the two people inside.  He goes to prison for this, after which he tries to make a new start in life.  Sam goes to college, meets a lovely woman, gets a good job, and starts a family.  And then Thomas Coleman, the son of the people he accidentally killed, shows up at his door.

Many things happen as a result of Thomas’s desire for revenge.  Sam’s carefully constructed life starts to fall apart, and he makes all kinds of (mostly unwelcome) discoveries about his own parents.  Sam, a self-described “bumbler,” captures our sympathy and even admiration as he tries to cope.

An Arsonist’s Guide is about death, and love, and families, and packaging science, among other things – but, above all, it is a book about stories – the ones we hear from others, the ones we tell ourselves, and the ones we make up.  Clearly, stories do matter, and they have the power to cause trouble as well as to save us.

Happy Reading!

The Book Goddess


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