Fire Exit

Stark and tender, Fire Exit by Morgan Talty (Night of the Living Rez) compassionately addresses tough choices in matters of family and love. In hardscrabble circumstances, surrounded by poverty, alcoholism, and family violence, one man wishes to give his daughter a meaningful gift: the truth.

Charles Lamosway has grown up on the Penobscot reservation in Maine, but doesn't have Native American blood. Although he's very close to his Native stepfather, Frederick, his biological parentage meant he had to move off the reservation when he came of age. Frederick purchased land and helped to build the house where Charles lives now, just across the river. Largely isolated, with few friends, Charles watches from his porch the family on the other side: Mary, Roger, and their daughter, Elizabeth. Charles is Elizabeth's biological father, a secret he has kept at Mary's request. But as he ages, and as his mother Louise's health worsens, he feels increasingly that Elizabeth, now an adult, must know the truth. This urge becomes a fixation, a bodily need. Elizabeth faces medical problems, and he is convinced she needs the truth--including Louise's medical history--to survive. But it's possible that what Charles sees as necessary will have an entirely different outcome from what he intends.

Fire Exit is concerned with bodies, with visceral needs not only for food and shelter but for truth. Talty's tersely poetic, descriptive prose grounds this story in the physical. This first novel grapples with family issues and hard choices about love and responsibility; blood, culture, and belonging. It is an utterly absorbing story, always firmly rooted in the corporeal; tough, honest, but not bitter. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

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