Walking Fire

Valerie Miner, Author
Valerie Miner, Author State University of New York Press $52.5 (254p) ISBN 978-0-7914-2007-2
Paperback - 254 pages - 978-0-7914-2008-9
Hardcover - 241 pages - 978-0-585-04460-6
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Madness, alcoholism, suicide, aging, parental betrayal, politics and Vietnam are all part of Miner's ( All Good Women ) ambitious but flawed story of one young woman's exile and return. In 1968, with her two brothers serving in Vietnam, Cora Casey made a radical departure from her family's conservative, working-class patriotism and became embroiled in an arson that resulted in the death of her co-conspirator. Disowned by her father for her radical politics, fearful of legal retribution and pregnant by one of her lovers, Cora leaves for Canada. But 20 years later, as her father is dying of cancer, she returns home with her daughter--despite fears of being arrested. Through rapid cuts--to Cora's present, to her college years, to a recent, settled past in Canada, and to her troubled childhood--Miner peels back the layers of family secrets that shaped her protagonist. If anything, Miner is too ambitious, stuffing more psychological, moral, emotional and political baggage into the book than her intimate story can handle. Nor does her language make up for it with strain showing in both narrative (``Cora began to lose weight. Even George commented on her lighter way of being.'') and dialogue (``How did you get so knowledgeable about these European groups, Ralph?''). But she does have a feeling for the trappings of an era, surrounding Cora with scratchy Mary Wells records, Salvation Army kitchen utensils and the smell of sour coffee. (July)
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