A Walking Fire

A Walking Fire

by Valerie Miner
     
 

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“Here comes a walking fire,” the Fool says to Lear as he sees Gloucester walking across a heath carrying a torch. This novel opens in fall, 1988, as Cora, an anti-war activist, returns to the U.S. from Canada where she has lived for twenty years. A college student in the mid-sixties, Cora becomes politically curious, then joins the anti-war movement.

Overview

“Here comes a walking fire,” the Fool says to Lear as he sees Gloucester walking across a heath carrying a torch. This novel opens in fall, 1988, as Cora, an anti-war activist, returns to the U.S. from Canada where she has lived for twenty years. A college student in the mid-sixties, Cora becomes politically curious, then joins the anti-war movement. Based on King Lear and written from the point of view of Cordelia, the book weighs definitions of patriotism and loyalty. In her return as in her past, Cora is testing borders between suffering and virtue, idealism and commitment, self and family, and exploring possibilities of change.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Madness, alcoholism, suicide, aging, parental betrayal, politics and Vietnam are all part of Miner's ( All Good Women ) ambitious but flawed story of one young woman's exile and return. In 1968, with her two brothers serving in Vietnam, Cora Casey made a radical departure from her family's conservative, working-class patriotism and became embroiled in an arson that resulted in the death of her co-conspirator. Disowned by her father for her radical politics, fearful of legal retribution and pregnant by one of her lovers, Cora leaves for Canada. But 20 years later, as her father is dying of cancer, she returns home with her daughter--despite fears of being arrested. Through rapid cuts--to Cora's present, to her college years, to a recent, settled past in Canada, and to her troubled childhood--Miner peels back the layers of family secrets that shaped her protagonist. If anything, Miner is too ambitious, stuffing more psychological, moral, emotional and political baggage into the book than her intimate story can handle. Nor does her language make up for it with strain showing in both narrative (``Cora began to lose weight. Even George commented on her lighter way of being.'') and dialogue (``How did you get so knowledgeable about these European groups, Ralph?''). But she does have a feeling for the trappings of an era, surrounding Cora with scratchy Mary Wells records, Salvation Army kitchen utensils and the smell of sour coffee. (July)
From the Publisher
“Here’s a good big story of Cora’s journey home across a continent and twenty years. Valerie Miner’s gift is to make us see again that the issues we too often think of as political are really deeply personal. This is the mission of our best fiction. A Walking Fire is a worthy pilgrimage and a welcome book.” — Ron Carlson, author, Plan B for the Middle Class

“I found this novel utterly engrossing. It is smoothly and powerfully written, politically acute, and humanly relevant. The device of re-writing Shakespeare's King Lear from the point of view of Cordelia, moreover, gives the novel many levels of resonance and invites serious study. I have no doubt that this book will appeal not only to a general novel-reading audience, but also to students and critics of literature.” — Madelon Sprengnether, author, The Spectral Mother

“This powerful and poignant novel is about the cauterizing of wounds: personal, familial, and political. It explores the lingering damage of Vietnam, both for those who fought in, and those who fought against that war. Valerie Miner’s analysis is lucid and unsentimental. When profound political divisions run through the center of a family, there are no easy answers, only temporary truces, and sometimes, here and there, if we’re lucky, transcendent moments of hope. For any reader who was politically involved in those turbulent times, there will be a strong inner assent to Miner’s work: yes, this was the way it was. A wise, compassionate, unforgettable novel.” — Janette Turner Hospital, author, The Last Magician

“A Walking Fire tallies up the costs of many kinds of exile—from family, from country, from every kind of mainstream comfort we build our lives on. Then, through honest and painful detail, daily and undramatic, Valerie Miner shows the kind of strength it takes to pay the bill. This moving novel brings politics back to where it begins and ends—in the life of the family, its secrets, its compromises, and the affection that sometimes eludes acknowledgment—without ever giving up its radical commitment.” — Rosellen Brown, author, Before and After

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780791420089
Publisher:
State University of New York Press
Publication date:
06/28/1994
Series:
SUNY series, The Margins of Literature Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
254
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.99(h) x 0.58(d)

What People are saying about this

Rosellen Brown
A Walking Fire tallies up the cost of many kinds of exile -- from family, from country, from every kind of mainstream comfort we build our lives on. Then, through honest and painful detail, daily and undramatic, Valerie Minor shows the kind of strength it takes to pay the bill. This moving novel brings politics back to where it begins and ends -- the life of the family, its secrets, its compromises, and the affection that sometimes eludes acknowledgement -- without ever giving up radical commitment.
Madelon Sprengnether
I found this novel utterly engrossing. It is smoothly and powerfully written, politically acute and humanely relevant. For the device of rewriting Shakespeare's King Lear from the point of view of Cordelia gives the novel many levels of resonance and invites further study. I have no doubt that this bood will appeal to a general novel writing audience but also to students and critics of literature.

Meet the Author

Valerie Miner’s other books of fiction include Trespassing and Other Stories; All Good Women; Winter’s Edge; Murder in the English Department; Movement; and Blood Sisters. She has also published a non-fiction book, Rumors from the Cauldron: Selected Essays, Reviews and Réportage, co-edited Competition: A Feminist Taboo?, and co-authored Her Own Women; Tales I Tell My Mother; and More Tales. She is Associate Professor of English, University of Minnesota.

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