Publisher: Santa Fe Writers Workshop
Distributed by: Ingram Book Group
ISBN-13: 978-0-9776799-1-1
ISBN-10: 0977679918
Price: $10.00 | trade
Trade Paperback: 128 pages
Publication Date: September 1, 2007
Trim Size: 5 x 8

The Fires
Alan Cheuse

From acclaimed author Alan Cheuse come two novellas of compelling intensity.

In "The Fires", Gina Morgan makes a pilgrimage to Uzbekistan to carry out her husband's final wish only to discover that in this former Soviet republic things are not as they used to be. And in "The Exorcism," Tom Swanson retrieves his angry daughter from her exclusive New England college after her expulsion for setting fire to a grand piano.

Publisher's Weekly has praised Cheuse's "impressive command of many voices," and The New York Times Book Review called his work "richly imagined." In The Fires, Alan Cheuse demonstrates once more the poetry and range of his literary gifts in these finely-honed portraits of hope and change.


"Alan Cheuse is one of the most engaged and vital writers on the scene today."

—Robert Stone (author of Dog Soldiers and A Flag for Sunrise)

"This work is—as Chekov said—informed by the deeper harmonies. When Alan Cheuse writes, 'she is retreating from desire but not from love,' it is as if the woman suffering from this relentless condition has just entered the room. The Fires offers the twin bequeathing of profound sadness and enchantment. Cheuse is a writer of immense gifts."

—Howard Norman (author of Devotion and The Bird Artist)

"Cheuse's skill as a writer makes it hard not to be drawn in...and to exit feeling transformed."

Library Journal

"Cheuse has for years been one of the smartest, most trustworthy reviewers in America. Now he shows us where he gets his authority—a fiction writer of startling talent."

—John Gardner (author of The Sunlight Dialogues and Grendel)

"With intelligence and wit, Alan Cheuse takes us through the searing, tragic, heart-breaking and hilarious business of being alive. The two novellas that make up The Fires—one of sorrow and one of radiance—are filled with characters trying to maneuver that space between creation and destruction. Some come to ashes and some find forgiveness—even for themselves. Through it all, Cheuse never betrays the dignity or humanity of his characters. His brilliant creations are in good hands right to the end, as are we."

—Ana Menendez (author of Loving Che and In Cuba I was a German Shepherd)

"[Cheuse]reminds us how close art and chaos really are."

The New York Times Book Review

"In these two novellas, Cheuse dissects the aftermath of two very different deaths: one, of an American businessman traveling in Russia; the other, a mother, jazz pianist and drug addict. In the first novella, "The Fires," a museum worker named Gina learns that her husband, Paul, died in a car accident while en route to Uzbekistan. Gina travels to Russia to ensure her husband gets cremated, per his wishes, and the foreign, surreal and familiar collide when Gina takes Paul's body to a Hindu ceremony to be cremated.

"'The Exorcism' applies much more overt dark humor to similar feelings in a substantially different character. An unnamed baby boomer discusses his sadness following the sudden death of his first wife, renowned jazz pianist Billie Benjamin, who fatally overdosed on heroin. Billie's death hits her daughter, Ceely, hard (she lashes out postcremation by torching a piano at her college), and the narrator's fond recollections of courting Billie are not received warmly by his new wife. Misery is in greater supply than comfort throughout, and Cheuse approaches his subjects from interesting angles, making these novellas of grief strangely compelling."

Publishers Weekly

These stories are extremely well crafted and excellently told. I would love to hear them in Cheuse's smooth radio voice. They are compelling, tragic, yet funny at times. I enjoyed the symbolism of fire and words like sacrifice, destruction, purification kept coming to mind while I was reading. [click here to read the full review]

—Lisa Munley, Books on the Brain