AFTER THE FIRE

Daniel Robinson, Author . Lyons $19.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-58574-760-3

A 12-year veteran of a wildfire suppression crew, the author of this touching debut traces a week in the life of Fort Collins, Colo., firefighter Barnes, who can't recover after surviving a surprise firestorm that claimed the lives of nearly his entire Hot Shot wildfire team. Barnes's grieving process is complicated by a lawsuit filed by the father of another crew boss, Max, in an effort to clear his son's name of any hint of negligence. Though Barnes's job is his life and he's known by his crew as the "mother hen," he refuses to testify in court that Max acted sensibly at the fire. In a series of flashbacks, the crew's weak spots are gradually revealed, including Max's headstrong attitude and another member's struggle with alcoholism. To Barnes's further dismay, he is haunted by the ghosts of the dead crew members, who appear seeking an explanation. His only consolation is his relationship with his neighbor Ruth, her young daughter, Grace, and Ruth's Vietnam veteran father. In caring for them after Ruth's husband abandons them, he comes to love Ruth, adore Grace and respect Ruth's father, who puts their hardships in perspective with his homespun wisdom. Robinson's prose can be awkward and flat at times, but the riveting firestorm flashbacks more than make up for the weak points. Overall, this is a poignant story about "the pull of the past," affectingly warm and compassionate. (July)

Reviewed on: 06/30/2003
Release date: 07/01/2003
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