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Torch Paperback – January 8, 2007
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 griefa topic with which she is intimately familiar, see belowthrough 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Thanks Cheryl, and where ever you are, Thanks Mom!
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.
While the book is fiction, it definitely had a familiar theme and was heavily influenced by the loss of the author's mother at a relatively early age. From both books and hearing the author speak, it appears the death of her mother was the most defining even of her life so far and the hole it left is still obvious even in the present day.
The story itself revolves around a young(ish) mother who discovers she has a very aggressive cancer and only a short time to live. How her live and death impacts her family and how they each hand their grief is the bones of the story. Her two children are older and their reactions are very different. One child is out on her own attending college and the other is still in school and living at home. Her "husband" who she never legally married is the love of her life and his way of grieving is very different from what might be expected.
A star rating is difficult to assign as I had some very conflicted opinions. On one hand, the characters are incredibly well fleshed-out and I feel like I came to know them and what they were going through. The writing is both descriptive and clear which is often times difficult for a writer to pull off. On the other hand, the main theme is so similar to "Wild" that the two books almost merged in my mind. I would also recommend you take a pass if you are feeling depressed or in need of a lift. Hard to read and hard to forget. A well-written book that isn't quite in that top group of stellar books but pretty amazing for a first novel.
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