From Publishers Weekly
New York City firefighters assume center stage in this meandering, sometimes clumsy debut novel. Alicia, a writer of bad poetry who strips to pay the bills, jump-starts the action when she rediscovers Jonah Malone, the fireman who saved her life when she was five but only after Wald spends the first few chapters chronicling Alicia's torrid three-month affair with another fireman, Jake Schiller, the very model of homophobic manliness. The improbable relationship between Alicia and Jonah culminates in marriage, though wedded bliss quickly deteriorates because of several factors: the psychological wounds caused by Jonah's abusive upbringing and service in Vietnam; the jealous machinations of Wes, Jonah's wealthy gay mentor; and a tragic fire that kills three firemen and figuratively envelopes Jonah in its aftermath. Wald, whose first book, Meeting the Master, was a collection of s&m tales and poetry, tries to spice things up with plenty of sex indeed, it seems every firefighter in New York is a muscular but sensitive stud. The novel piles on the cliches ("like a light at the end of the night's tunnel") and flows unevenly, straying too often into bodice-ripper territory (including a mock rape or two), and on several occasions the firefighters grow indistinguishable from one another. Moreover, Alicia remains a half-formed character, her motivations and background a mystery that continuously vexes, because Wald employs her as a thread tying various characters together. The ease, for example, with which she falls in love with the much older, emotionally scarred Jonah is puzzling, lending the relationship a superficial sheen. Although Wald has taken on some interesting material here, the novel never really heats up.
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"...[her] vision of the world has much to teach us about the brevity of desire and the longevity of pain." -- Junot Diaz
"Elissa Wald is a brave new voice in American fiction." -- Pat Conroy