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Fires of Our Choosing Paperback – April 3, 2012
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About the Author
A boy acts out at the death of his father and abandonment by his brother through a savage playground beating; a young man confronts his own troubled history when asked to hire on his girlfriend's strung-out brother in an attempt to keep him out of prison; a teenage babysitter works through a scorching-hot summer afternoon that will prove to alter her life forever; a grieving widower finds comfort in the unlikeliest of places, a recently-built casino; an itinerant farm worker visits the same former lover in South Dakota year after year while following the Harvest north; two friends search for excuses and fail to claim responsibility for their own decisions after one loses his father, and the other's house burns to the ground; and a taxidermist falls in love with the ex-wife of his high school bully and tries to convince her to marry him despite her son who seems to share his father's bullying mentality.
"A brilliant, sometimes heartbreaking debut by this gifted young writer and Columbia writing teacher. Cross captures the angst and tenderness of the young men and women growing up in the rust belt with little hope and less luck. The moments of grace and redemption shine through. I loved every story." Linda Bubon, Women & Children First Bookstore
"There are countless moments like this in Fires of Our Choosing, lines that appear true from the moment they’ve been written and hang in the back of the mind for days afterwards... With Fires of Our Choosing, Cross climbs boldly into the ring with the greats, if only to deliver a decisive knockout punch." Urban Waite, Fiction Writers Review
"Cross offers no apologies for his characters: their poor choices, their lack of moral fortitude, their betrayals of each other and the poverty of their surroundings and, often, themselves; he leaves these things alone. They are who they are, and if dignity has been denied them by the rest of us, including us story-tellers, it is restored by this collection. That he has undertaken to serve as their raconteur should place Cross on the radar of all the big prizes that gift those blessed with talent, compassion and fearlessness, particularly during this present moment in our history." Ru Freeman, Huffington Post
Eugene Cross was born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania and received an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh. His stories have appeared in Narrative Magazine (which named him one of "20 Best New Writers" and his story "Harvester's" a "Top Five Story of 2009-2010"), American Short Fiction, Story Quarterly, TriQuarterly, and Callalloo among other publications. His work was also listed among the 2010 Best American Short Stories' 100 Distinguished Stories. He is the recipient of scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the Chautauqua Writers' Festival, and the winner of the 2009 Dzanc Prize for Excellence in Literary Fiction and Community Service. He currently lives in Chicago where he teaches in the Fiction Department at Columbia College Chicago.
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Reading stories like these, especially ones like "Harvesters" but even "Hunters" and "Come August" I'm pleasantly reminded of what made Steinbeck's writing so powerful and pleasing to the eye and heart. Like Steinbeck Cross writes of human sadness that subtly consoles rather than depresses and doesn't leave the reader with a grim after-flavor as so much modern literature does. This bleeds through beneath each story from the essence of the writer himself: someone who has deep empathy for nature and humans. He has an uncanny ability (reminiscent of Tolstoy) to understand human beings and their plights as they fumble towards change.
Each of these stories are beautifully put together and one feels no pretensions in its literary aspects. When symbols arise they arise completely naturally and from the essence of the characters themselves. Stories where a setting, a field of tilled hay, or a stuffed bear in a bar display case, a dying dog, can speak as much to us about the interiors of the characters as the dialogue and narrative itself.Read more ›
The characters in Cross' stories are all dealing with some type of struggle. Whether it's a young boy so overcome with rage at his brother leaving following the tragic death of their father that he severely beats up another classmate, a widower who finds a renewed sense of excitement by visiting a casino about an hour from the retirement community he lives in, a teenage babysitter just on the verge of college whose routine babysitting job has bigger ramifications than she is aware of, or the middle-aged man locked in a battle of wills with his girlfriend's son, whose temperament is all too similar to the boy's father, who used to beat the narrator up when they were in high school, each story has its main character facing a test of emotional (or sometimes physical) strength. Some of my favorite stories in the collection included "Rosaleen, If You Know What I Mean," "Only the Strong Will Survive," "Come August," "The Brother," and "The Gambler."
If I have any criticism about the collection, it's that I felt that some of the stories ended just before something key was going to happen, but the stories didn't leave you in suspense wondering what that something was, I just felt disappointed. Luckily those instances were outweighed by some powerful, fully fleshed out stories that affected me. Eugene Cross is a tremendously talented writer, and I hope this collection is just the start of a terrific career in fiction. I'll be watching.
The book is a collection of several short stories, "literary fiction" style, full of beautifully-crafted characters and situations. The title is apt: we see the fiery passions - either expressed or suppressed - of nearly every character Cross creates. It's one thing to write a believable situation, quite another to write a believable character. Cross has excelled at both. It takes an extremely skilled author to make the reader really feel what the character is feeling. Cross has pulled that off in his very first book.
One thing that struck me about each of his stories is that they all have a very strong sense of place. It probably helps that I've driven those stretches of Route 20, been to that pool hall (or one very much like it) on upper Peach Street, and seen what an Erie winter does to the land and the people around you. Cross is able to make those settings come alive.
I won't summarize the stories here, but any reader will get to them all soon enough. Even for my voracious reading habits, this was a page-turner.
"Fires of Our Choosing" is a fantastic collection of stories with a ton of heart, passion and genuine character. Don't pass it up.
3 stories to thumb to immediately: "Rosaleen, If You Know What I mean." "The Brother." "Only the Strong Will Survive."
Most Recent Customer Reviews
With most of Eugen's stories taking place in his home-region of up-state Pennsylvania, his characters and their predicaments are very much tied to their surroundings. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Glassworks Magazine
"Fires of Our Choosing" is written in such a deceptively simple style that you're surprised when each story hits with such impact. Read morePublished on April 7, 2013 by Michel Sauret
Not much of a short story enthusiast, but heard of Mr. Cross' work and had a read. Each story unwrapped its own raw and unique emotion; but they became a whole, visceral body that... Read morePublished on February 14, 2013 by Reader
Mr. Cross should visit the casino in Erie before using it again as a location for one of his short stories. No coins in or out of slot machines. No Keno. No harness races. Read morePublished on May 20, 2012 by P. Zenewicz