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TORCH by Cheryl Strayed Kirkus Star

TORCH

By Cheryl Strayed

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-618-47217-7
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Cancer rocks the foundation of a Minnesota family in Strayed’s debut novel.

Teresa Rae Wood is a force of nature. As a teenaged mother, she fled her abusive husband and decided to start a new life in rural Minnesota. She is notable not for her wild exploits, but for her decency and her keen mind. She becomes a bit of a local celebrity thanks to her quirky radio program, Modern Pioneers. Her joie de vivre is a source of pride for her family: Claire, a book-smart and emotive college senior; Joshua, a sensitive and taciturn adolescent about to graduate from high school; and Bruce, her common-law husband and adoring soulmate. The mordant news of Teresa’s diagnosis and ultimately her death shatters the family—each member takes a unique approach toward self-destruction. Bruce alienates himself from the community and latches on to the first single woman he can find. Joshua develops a drug habit, drops out of school and becomes a father. Claire has a sexual dalliance with a much older man and lets her studies slide. Strayed has a gift of getting to the core of the human condition without artifice. The reader weeps for the loss of this dynamic woman and wants to knock some sense into the survivors who are falling apart at the seams. Like Jane Smiley, Strayed effectively taps into the psyche of midwestern America, and her evocative prose leaves an indelible mark.

A hauntingly beautiful story written with tenderness and endowed with true insights into the frailty of relationships.