A “painful and poignant” memoir of the author’s father, a heroic firefighter—and his grandfather, a serial arsonist (USA Today).
When Jay Varner, fresh out of college, returns home to central Pennsylvania to work for the local newspaper, he knows he will have to deal with the memories of a childhood haunted by a grandfather who was both menacing and comical, and of his fire-chief father, a local hero who died too young. In digging into the past, Varner uncovers layers of secrets, lies, and half-truths. It is only when he finally has the truth in hand that he comes to understand the forces that drove his father, and the fires that he, despite all his efforts, could never extinguish.
“Unadorned but vivid, Varner’s coming-of-age story unravels family secrets about firefighting and arson. It’s painful and poignant . . . [Varner] reminds us that few lives, even those we think we know best, are easily understood.” —USA Today
“At its core, the book is about the way we spend half our lives trying to understand the people who brought us into this world . . . [Varner’s] writing is reporterly with lovely lyrical flourishes.” —Time Out Chicago