cover image A Fire So Wild

A Fire So Wild

Sarah Ruiz-Grossman. Harper, $25.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-06-330542-7

Ruiz-Grossman’s captivating debut chronicles a wildfire’s impact on a diverse set of residents of Berkeley, Calif. Abigail, 50, organizes a fund-raiser at a friend’s house in the Berkeley Hills for a mixed-income apartment building on the city’s west side. She hires Willow, a young woman who ran away from home as a teen and who Abigail met while volunteering at a soup kitchen, to serve drinks and food at the party. Willow lives in a van with her boyfriend, Sunny, a fellow runaway, who picks up occasional construction work. The night of the gala, Willow warns Abigail that a series of fires are getting dangerously close to town. Abigail ignores her, even as an ominous glow creeps closer to the party, until she receives an evacuation notice on her phone. Meanwhile, Abigail’s teenage son, Xavier, is home nearby with his girlfriend, Mar. An intense parallel narrative develops involving Abigail’s delayed reaction, Willow and Sunny’s effort to escape the blaze, and the disaster’s impact on Xavier and Mar. It’s a gripping page-turner with a surprising twist, as a set of disgruntled survivors form an unlikely alliance and take drastic action. The complex characterizations and realistic scenarios converge to deliver a satisfying punch. Agent: Sharon Pelletier, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Feb.)