Nothing Left To Burn

Jay Varner, Author
Jay Varner, Algonquin, $23.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-56512-609-1
Reviewed on: 06/28/2010
Release date: 09/01/2010
Open Ebook - 303 pages - 978-1-61620-029-9
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Journalist Varner traces a scorched circle of memory in this affecting memoir. Going home after college to live with his widowed mother in their double-wide trailer in tiny McVeytown, Pa., Varner confronts a complicated past in which his father, Denton, was the heroic, beloved chief of the local volunteer fire corps, and his grandfather, a generally callous soul called Lucky, was a suspected arsonist. In this often bleak, relentless first book Varner earnestly measures his memories, resentments, and prospects against the expectations he once felt as the only son of a big man in a small community. As he describes the effort: "everything in this book is my truth." Varner's intense tale of fathers and sons exhausts even as it fascinates, leaving little room for humor and only an uneasy redemption. "I am picking open a scab that will never fully heal," Varner concludes of the contradictory emotions his story evokes. Looking to fire—as much a character as an event in these pages—to both destroy and purify the past, this story, in the end, generates more heat than light. (Sept.)
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