- Fizzy Thoughts: Who By Fire

Who By Fire

Monday, November 24, 2008


Who By Fire
September 2008
344 pages

This is the last time (maybe) I'm going to gloat about being at the Book Group Expo. But before I talk about Who By Fire I need to talk about one of the salons at the Expo. The opening salon on Saturday featured two authors, Andre Dubus III (the House of Sand and Fog dude, who I recognized only because I never finished his book) and Diana Spechler, who I had never heard of before. So you know, honestly, I wasn't expecting much. But during the discussion Diana proved herself to be funny and able to poke fun at herself and also the author of a book I was starting to think I needed to read. So fast forward a few hours to me buying the book and then running over (okay, it was a fast walk) to have it signed. And then Trish was there and we talked about blogging and Diana's (and Trish's!) upcoming birthdays. And before I knew it, it was the evening and I had a lovely email from Diana about how it was great to meet me (*swoon*) and how she'd like to maybe do something to feature her book on my blog.

And after reading her book, this turned out to be no hardship at all. None. The only reason I haven't posted about the book sooner is because I did a couple of other tours earlier this month and I didn't want to do back to back to back author posts. I wanted Diana's book to have some space, so to speak. Because this one is going on my list of favorites for 2008. Seriously. I'm not just being nice, because I think we've established that that's just not the way I roll.

Now, onto Who By Fire. It's got lots of elements I like in a book. There are interesting characters, there's humor (but also seriousness), there are references to popular culture (guaranteed to make me happy), it didn't make me scratch my head and wonder what the hell, and yet it also told me about things I didn't even know existed (yeshivas anyone?). All that and an engaging story to boot.

So, what's it about? It's about a family torn apart by the kidnapping of its youngest child. The kidnapping, however, is not the focus of the book...it just sets the stage. Years later, we see how the kidnapping has affected the lives of the rest of the family. Ellie, the mom, is...well, she's kind of indescribable, without resorting to the stereotype of a Jewish mother. Bits, the eldest child, turned into the Whore of Babylon (her brother's description, and one of my favorite lines from the book). And Asher, the son, has been searching for most of his life. Only thing is, he may not really know what he's searching for (and apologies for sounding a bit like a U2 song there). Bits and Ellie certainly don't think he knows what he's doing, because he ran off to Israel to study at a yeshiva, and he won't even talk to them when they call. Ellie and Bits respond to this decision in different ways, setting in motion events that will change their family.

I found myself continuously pulling for the characters, despite the dumb-ass decisions they kept making. At first, I didn't even like them that much. By that, I don't mean I didn't like their fictional existence, but that I didn't think I'd like them if they were real people, if that makes any sense. But after awhile, they grew on me, and by the end of the book I didn't want them to go away. In fact, I wanted to give them all hugs. Well, except for Ellie...I'm still pissed at her.

Diana Spechler turns 30 next year…so give her an early birthday present and go buy her book.

And tomorrow, the author herself will be here to post about all the gloriousness of being a published author.

9 comment(s):

Julie P. said...

This book really is that good! I loved it too!

It's funny how you mentioned that you wouldn't want to be friends with these characters. I felt exactly the same way, and by the end of the book I felt a great deal of compassion for them. I even felt bad for Ellie (not that I liked her), but I can't imagine being that desperate.

bkclubcare said...

Yes, that makes sense (abt not liking the characters but liking them, too - or something.) Makes sense to me even if I can't quite make sense out of this comment...

I'll be back t'moro.

bermudaonion said...

I just got this last week and can't wait to get to it.

Beth F said...

This one does sound good. I'll have to come back and see what I think tomorrow.

Dar said...

I just got this book the other day so as soon as I read it I'll be back for your post and the guest post. It's enough for now to know you loved it.

dawn said...

Yes, a fantastic book! I haven't posted my review yet (pre-Thanksgiving madness around here with school events for all the kids, swim meet, etc., excuses, etc.!) ... but I will soon ...

I could picture the characters the way Diana wrote them - Monica with her constant stretching cracked me up. Bits and the glow-stick-guy also made me smile.

I'll be back to read Diana's post.

chartroose said...

You had me at "Whore of Babylon!" Maybe the author will send me a copy to review, hmmmm?

beastmomma said...

That sounds fantastic! I am looking forward to her post tomorrow. Also, I am weirded out that she is younger than me and seems so together :)

trish said...

I cannot WAIT to read this book!

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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