Friedman’s adept first story collection, winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize, evokes several weighty themes—religion, sexuality, coming-of-age—while remaining grounded in the everyday culture and communities of its characters, many of whom find themselves on the outside looking in. “Reunion” follows the narrator, gay New Yorker Edward, as he returns to Savannah for his 25-year high-school reunion, where he struggles to feel any connection with his brother while being pursued by a former classmate. In “All the World’s a Field,” Miriam’s adult son, with whom she lives, demands that she no longer speak Yiddish, leading her into a self-imposed code of silence. The standout, “There’s Hope for Us All,” follows Jon, an assistant curator at an art gallery in Atlanta, who is tasked with editing a catalog essay about an enigmatic, 500-year-old Italian painting. His work is put into flux when his boyfriend unwittingly uncovers a surprising discovery that challenges years of critique as well as their relationship. In a collection that marks its own territory, Friedman’s seven tales offer a compelling exploration into shifting social norms. --Leah Strauss
"These seven funny, fearless outsiders' tales set in Savannah and Atlanta--sometimes depicting bygone orthodox Jewish communities, others the rife-with-irony "New South"--gravitate toward taboo. One preoccupation of Friedman's Mary McCarthy Prize-winning debut collection is the breakdown of traditional mores, but its standouts specifically tackle pent-up sexual desire.... Strengthened by the diversity in subject matter, the through-line of sexual coming-of-age and temptation gives this volume a satisfying coherence."
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"Loneliness predictably attends these people on the fringes, yet sometimes Mr. Friedman craftily reverses the polarity of acceptance and rejection. . . . There can also be loneliness in inclusion, Mr. Friedman suggests, when it resembles exploitation."
The Wall Street Journal
"Friedman has assembled a memorable posse of misfits in his debut collection. . . . Friedman works in that same O’Connor-Welty tradition, and in light of 2013’s Nobel Prize going to short story writer Munro in recognition of a life’s opus, I am thrilled for this new voice to join the genre with Fire Year."
The LA Review of Books
"Friedman’s adept first story collection, winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize, evokes several weighty themesreligion, sexuality, coming-of-agewhile remaining grounded in the everyday culture and communities of its characters, many of whom find themselves on the outside looking in. . . . In a collection that marks its own territory, Friedman’s seven tales offer a compelling exploration into shifting social norms."
"The seven stories in Jason K. Friedman's rich, funny and finally very moving debut all feature characters who feel like transplants in a strange land, even though often enough it's a land to which they were born."
"Friedman writes with an air of post-modern irony yet remains fully sympathetic to the characters who people his stories as they fumble toward irresolution.... In this Isaac Bashevis Singer-like take on the Jewish experience in the American South, with humor set against despair, Friedman writes with a gift for language, employing words and phrases quietly. The characters are real and diamond-sharp, but observing from the outside, always through the lens of Jewish culture, oft times amplified by sexual identity."
"Candid, cunning, brave, and wickedly funnyJason K. Friedman's Fire Year will make you remember the first time you read Philip Roth. Love, lust, religious tradition, the new South, the transcendent promise of faith, the liberating hope of sexual awakeninghe twists all of them together here in stories as true to our goofy joys as to our deepest intuitions."