Setting Fires

Kate Wenner, Author Scribner Book Company $24 (304p) ISBN 978-0-684-83748-2
Documentary filmmaker, happily married wife and mother of two, Annie Waldmas, at 40, is enjoying a successful career and stable domestic environment when, in a short span of time, two disasters strike. The Waldmas's second home in secluded Brookfield, Conn., is where Annie, news photographer husband Josh, and young children Eli and Hannah escape New York City's hectic pace, until their retreat is destroyed in a fire that may have been set by anti-Semitic arsonists. Then, Annie's beloved father, Abraham Fishman, 70, is diagnosed with a rapidly progressing form of cancer. In this intelligent, richly nuanced debut from a former producer of ABC's 20/20, Annie, who's never been religious, turns to a local rabbi for support as she tends to her dying parent, supervises the rebuilding of her country home and investigates the cause of the fire. Though the local police are satisfied that the blaze was due to faulty electrical wiring, Annie receives anonymous letters telling her that two other Jewish-owned homes in the area went up in flames. Aware that her father has only a few months to live, Annie videotapes him talking about his life and how he came to be dubbed ""Manufactured Man,"" a self-created person in every sense. Abe tells Annie of his ""mean, suffocating"" mother, who, five decades earlier, set her own dry-goods store ablaze, then went on to burn down two additional businesses, imperiling several lives. Having unburdened himself of this shameful memory, Abe dies in peace, but Annie is anguished, and also alarmed enough to call the FBI when her research turns up a total of 12 fires set on Jewish property. Understated yet intense and touching, this is a sophisticated account of one woman's perseverance in learning that even a happy family can have dark secrets, and that facing them honestly can give her the strength to become a force for change. Agent, Elizabeth Kaplan. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-425-18210-9
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