cover image This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire

This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire

Nick Flynn. Norton, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-324-00554-4

In this outstanding work, poet and playwright Flynn bookends his first memoir, 2004’s Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, with this unsparing look at his early childhood and his mother, who died by suicide when Flynn was 22 years old. He makes a series of visits to his hometown of Scituate, Mass., with his young daughter and describes his solitary childhood spent living with his mother in a small, “ugly” house that she bought after she left Flynn’s father. When Flynn was seven years old, his mother set fire to the house, an event he is still trying to understand: “Maybe my mother set our house on fire not merely to collect the insurance money, but simply to see what it was that she was losing.” His return trips are not only a chance to tell his daughter “where your father came from” but also to deal with his own unhappiness that led him to cheat on his wife. He comes to a realization that “we are so lost inside ourselves sometimes that it is impossible to think of other people, even those we love.” Readers will devour this powerful memoir of letting go. (Aug.)