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The Prescribed Burn Paperback – December 15, 2012
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The Amazon Book Review
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About the Author
Laryssa Wirstiuk is a writer and writing teacher living in Jersey City, NJ. When she s not writing or teaching, Laryssa likes to try new vegan recipes and play with her miniature dachshund Charlotte. Laryssa wrote the majority of The Prescribed Burn while pursuing her MFA at the University of Maryland. While at Maryland, Laryssa was lucky enough to work with professors like Howard Norman, Merrill Feitell, and Maud Casey. She wrote a short story called Welcome to America (included in The Prescribed Burn), and it won honorable mention for the Katherine Ann Porter Prize for Fiction, judged by Joan Silber.
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Good writers value their readers, create protagonists for whom their readers cheer, construct narratives resolved yet somehow unresolved that demand their readers turn the page.
With publication of The Prescribed Burn Laryssa Wirstiuk displays mastery of her craft, suspending our disbelief that this is not really the story of our adolescence, that somehow she was there watching our every misstep, our every triumph.
Reward yourself. Have some fun. Read The Prescribed Burn. Appreciate an artist and her art.
Veda is neither outcast nor introvert: her strong Ukrainian heritage and a stronger creative drive are central to positioning Veda slightly askew from what her peers would consider ordinary. Her whisper-quiet brio is the very heart of The Prescribed Burn, as is the setting of the state of New Jersey (cheekily associated with Veda as being slightly askew in comparison to neighboring New York).
Laryssa Wirstiuk's writing method wins you over by lightly drizzling character-building events within the scenes of the mundane and everyday. The standard method of chapter-busting suspense and cliffhangers is disposed of, in favor of Veda's daily routine being shifted or interrupted with the moments that re-arrange her thinking. Wirstiuk sets up each scene masterfully in Veda's voice, drawing the reader into her mindset seamlessly. In doing so, the recurring theme of the book's title becomes powerful and clear by its conclusion.
Reviewers seem to have crafted opposing takes on the overall theme of the the book. Though some of the short stories magnify her insecurities, I find Veda is always perfectly satisfied with her identity, searching only for the places and people to comfortably wrap around it.
I believe there is a particular kind of reader for every particular kind of book. The Prescribed Burn is a book about growing up--for grown-ups. It's about realizing your friends are shaving their legs and no longer eating Pringles, and how that realization, at one point, changed your life. The storytelling style is thoughtful and long-winded, which really works for the type of collection this is. It's a meditation on coming of age as a girl and coming to terms with your shortcomings.
Veda's experiences will ring true with anyone who's done the hard work of getting through adolescence without needing serious therapy. She's an everygirl with a punch; someone who speaks to you without being too forward, but doesn't shy away from the stories that make us all feel human--those embarrassing, unlikable moments that, somehow, make a heroine like Veda even more likable.
Wirstiuk is playing a tricky flute with The Prescribed Burn. She weaves Veda's vignettes from many different points in time. A lesser writer might have told them all in the same style, but Wirstiuk firmly places each of her "Vedas" in their respective voices. Pubescent Veda, gawking at the other girls and their tight shorts and pink lip gloss; high school Veda, who's (unfortunately) on a diet herself now; even college-aged Veda, wrestling with a tempestuous love life. Each speaks with a familiar, and yet distinctly age-appropriate voice.
At first I thought it was strange that the anthology bounces around in time (we go from grown Veda to middle school Veda) but the stories are thematically-arranged, and not chronologically. That would be too linear for an author with a sneaky streak like Wirstiuk. And it works.
There was some fluff in The Prescribed Burn that I could have done without--at one point, Veda observes someone wearing a "two-carat diamond princess cut engagement ring"--but I don't think it detracts too much from the flow and style.
This is a book I can see lending to my mom, my best friend, and my little cousin, and they will all get something different out of it. A good (and often surprising) first showing from a new author. (And, if you read my Twitter feed, you might remember that the prologue made me cry. Yeah. I admitted it. SO WHAT.)
Welcome to the life of Veda, the main character in The Prescribed Burn. Laryssa Wirstiuk's collection of short-stories explores the life of a teenage girl as she develops into a young woman, putting all the broken pieces together. These stories are a search for the self, an identity, in a patchwork of stories and photos. All the big questions are explored: Who am I? Where am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? But, most importantly: What does it all mean? Growing up in our convoluted society and culture where gender roles and identities are shoved upon us by what's on the magazine rack in the grocery checkout line, by what we see on television and in the movies, is not easy, especially for a teenager, and especially for a young woman. If you want religion, it's here. If you want sex, it's here. If you want introspection, it's here. In the end you will find freedom with Veda . . . a freedom caged, and then escaped.
"I wanted to unravel each of my emotions like yarn . . ."