A moving and bittersweet memoir of a woman’s love affair with a unique profession.

An intimate account of what it means to be a female wildland firefighter.

Essayist and novelist Emerick (The Geography of Water, 2015) dissects the passion that kept her on the fire line for more than 20 years. Just out of college in the mid-1980s, she traveled to Olympic National Park for a summer job. Insecure but seeking to break out of her shell, she accepted an assignment on the fire line during an especially nasty fire season. Though not convinced firefighting was the right path, Emerick imagined the new self that would result from the excitement and stress of the job: “The person I imagined I would become by fighting fire was someone better: tan, long-braided, self-sufficient, strong.” The author’s choice led to two decades of fighting fires in multiple states, all the while absorbing the incredible sights, smells, and sounds of fire. Emerick vividly recounts the extremely taxing physical requirements, the deadly conditions firefighters consistently endure, and the ever present lure of adventure and camaraderie each fire provides. The author explores the implications of working in a male-dominated field and how that environment has improved during her tenure. She also shares her knowledge of different species of trees and how each burns as well as the tools and equipment needed to fight fires. Crisscrossing the country with the seasons, the author fought fires in the Western U.S during the summer and worked winters in the Florida swamps. Emerick is candid about her work’s toll on unfulfilled romances and a broken marriage. After years as a firefighter, Emerick questions the environmental policy of snuffing out all fires and “whether all this firefighting was really good for the forest, if it might not better just to let it burn.”

A moving and bittersweet memoir of a woman’s love affair with a unique profession.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62872-843-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview