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Torch Hardcover – February 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin; First Edition first Printing edition (February 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618472177
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618472178
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #581,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A family founders after a mother's death in Strayed's beautifully observed debut. Teresa Rae Wood was a teen mother and an abused wife who escaped to Minnesota, fell in love, raised good kids and started hosting a radio program called Modern Pioneers. "Work hard. Do good. Be incredible," Teresa tells her listeners, because that's what she does—until she's diagnosed with cancer and learns she has only months to live. As her loving common-law husband, Bruce, and her children, Claire (a bright, responsible college senior), and Josh, (a brooding 17-year-old), face Teresa's dying and death, Strayed shows how grief can divide people when they need each other the most. Bruce vows to kill himself, but then stumbles into a marriage with his neighbor; Claire drops out of school, cheats on her boyfriend and stops eating; Josh sells drugs and falls in love with a girl he quickly impregnates. The novel, like the family it portrays, loses its center after Teresa's death, as Bruce, Claire and Josh (especially the latter two) push and pull at each other, reaching and only sometimes finding comfort and connection. Strayed's characters are real and lovable, even as they fail themselves and each other; even tertiary players feel fully realized. Though the subject is sad, the novel is not without humor; it shimmers with a humane grace. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Strayed's debut novel hits with the weight of unwelcome news and tackles head-on some of the most difficult issues a family can face. Critics, who compare Torch to Joan Didion's best-selling memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, praise Strayed's attention to language and her ability to render grief—a topic with which she is intimately familiar, see below—through well-drawn, restrained details. Some critics comment that the narrative drags a bit after Teresa's death. Still, Strayed, primarily an essayist before the novel's publication ("Heroin/e," an essay about her own experience with her mother's cancer and the author's subsequent battle with drugs, made its way into the Best American Essays of 2000), possesses "a raw, unflinching familiarity with the rhythms of grief" (Oregonian).<BR>Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

More About the Author

Cheryl Strayed is the author of #1 New York Times bestseller WILD, the New York Times bestseller TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS, and the novel TORCH. WILD was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as her first selection for Oprah's Book Club 2.0. WILD won a Barnes & Noble Discover Award, an Indie Choice Award, an Oregon Book Award, a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, and a Midwest Booksellers Choice Award among others. The movie adaptation of WILD will be released by Fox Searchlight in December 2014. The film is directed by Jean-Marc Vallée and stars Reese Witherspoon, with a screenplay by Nick Hornby. Strayed's writing has appeared in THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS, the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post Magazine, Vogue, Salon, The Missouri Review, The Sun, Tin House, The Rumpus--where she wrote the popular "Dear Sugar" advice column--and elsewhere. Strayed was the guest editor of BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS 2013 and has contributed to many anthologies. Her books have been translated into more than thirty languages around the world. She holds an MFA in fiction writing from Syracuse University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and their two children.

Customer Reviews

It is very, very well written.
M. Dowling
I thought for sure I would like this one as well...not so much.
Wendy Christiansen
We all face love and loss, we can't escape it.
Nana Linda

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Mona Melendy on February 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
To be honest, I almost didn't read this novel because I thought it would be too sad to bear. As it turns out, I was half-right: it was too sad, it was breathtakingly sad, but I could not bear to stop reading it. On its face, the plot is simple: a husband, son, and a daughter stumble, brokenhearted, toward the moment of Teresa Rae Wood's death and then spin, brokenhearted, away from that moment, out into their separate lives and separate griefs. But there is nothing simple about Strayed's achievement, which is to render moot concepts like plot. The amazing truth is that, while I read this book, I never for a single second thought to myself, "This is a story. These are characters." I thought instead, from the first page, "This is a world. These are people." And they are people I needed to stick by through every brutal second of Teresa Rae Wood's dying and all the brutal, beautiful, dislocated, intensely intimate days and months that follow her dying. In their frank efforts to survive awful loss, Bruce, Claire, and Josh cling to some people, push others away, behave badly, nobly, selfishly, gorgeously, and they don't so much emerge from grief, as they manage to forge lives in which grief can coexist with hope and continuing. I'm so glad I read this book.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By K. Corn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Author Cheryl Strayad (who has published short stories but, to my knowledge, NEVER a full length novel) proves her talent once again by creating an incredibly haunting tale of a family in crisis. I loved every member of this family, flaws and all.

Teresa, the matriarch of the group, is clearly the heart of this family and every bit of her life reflects her love of domestic pursuits. She even has a show which bears some resemblance to Prairie Home Companion combined with Martha Stewart, a show which promotes the creativity that can come with getting back to basics and doing things from scratch.... even in today's rushed world where such pursuits may not seem worthwhile, where wool sweaters can be bought with far less time and money than knitting them.
As Teresa battles cancer, the family is ripped apart at the seams, each one coping (or going into full blown denial) in separate ways. Claire, the daughter, who is intelligent and in college, drops out of school - while her brother takes another path. I don't want to reveal ALL the details because readers deserve to discover the special voice and style of this writer for themselves. In spite of the seemingly dark subject matter, the book is touching and heartbreaking.
I simply urge you to get a copy and discover a writer who hasn't become famous yet...but deserves more notice.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Bruce J. Wasser on July 11, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The paperback version of Cheryl Strayed's complex and moving debut novel, "Torched," contains a revealing conversation with the author. In it, Strayed laments the fact that "in contemporary literary fiction...one's writing must never be sentimental, which often results in writing that lacks sentiment entirely." With extraordinary sensitivity, "Torch" explores the grief, pain and confusion that accompany the unexpected death of a family member. This is a deeply felt novel, one which features characters whose anguish is palpable, whose coping mechanisms are far from perfect and whose personalities are indelibly stamped by loss.

Fleeing an abusive marriage, Teresa Rae Woods lands in tiny Midden, Minnesota, impoverished, jobless and saddled with the responsibility of raising her two children. Resolute and resourceful, she slowly makes a life for herself, and in the process, discovers the true love of her life, an admirable carpenter, Bruce. Literally taking the advice she dispenses on her weekly radio show, Teresa words hard, does good and tries to "be incredible." Her exceptionally bright daughter, Claire and her alienated son Joshua have forged a profoundly healthy relationship with Bruce, who is everything to the two of them less being their legal father.

Then, at age thirty-eight, Teresa succumbs to cancer, and, predictably, those who love here most are staggered with the near-exquisite pain of loss. The centrifugal forces of grief splinter the family; each of the three survivors staggers under the weight of such an unsettling loss. Through various stages, Bruce, Claire and Joshua come to grips with the death of a loving partner or parent, and their journey towards understanding, acceptance and health is gripping.
Read more ›
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Monika Matthews VINE VOICE on September 25, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's not often that I don't finish a book. I fell in love with Cheryl Strayed after reading Wild and Dear Sugar, so I was looking forward to consuming everything I could get my hands on. It's clear, though, that Torch isn't what made her for a reason. There is nothing wrong with the book, it just isn't very compelling. After reading the other books and being familiar with Strayed's story, I can't help but think of this as more of a therapeutic writing project for her to explore her feelings about her mother's death than a story that we are all to share. Maybe if I had never read the other books, maybe if I didn't know it was the same author, maybe then I would like it. But for now, I'm admitting defeat and putting this one down.
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