A WALKING FIRE by Valerie Miner


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 In her seventh book of fiction Miner (Trespassing, 1989, etc.) continues her exploration of socially conscious women from the 1960s to the present day. Motherless since she was eight, Cora (as in Lear's Cordelia) enters college on scholarships, despite her working-class roots and her father's scorn. While her brothers rush off to Vietnam, Cora joins in draft-card burnings and ends up involved in a friend's suicide. She escapes to Canada. Her typically American (and proud of it) family disowns her. Twenty years later, when this novel opens, her own daughter is almost grown, her father is near death and--risking prison for arson and possibly murder- -she's come home to care for him. The tables have turned, and he looks toward this prodigal child as his savior. His two sons have inherited his money (and presumably used large sums to support a radical right-wing organization that stands for everything Cora opposes), and they're trying to ship him off to a nursing home and to sell his house right out from under his sickbed. Brief, carefully dated and located sections hop erratically through three periods in Cora's life: 1988 (Canada to Oregon, Cora's decision to come home and her homecoming); the late 1960s (Cora's college years, the conflicts and break with her family); the early 1950s (Cora's memory of her mother spurs other innocent family memories that, in retrospect, give clues to the future). Composed of many short passages, this text reveals Miner's gift for ending scenes with a memorable image; but while these poetic moments work perfectly in isolation, they are sometimes too powerful to admit needed segues. This, combined with a nonlinear narrative, can be disconcerting. Many women have written moving novels about draft protests, flight to Canada, and returning home, but few have focused so intensely on familial issues. In its best moments, this tale of love, trust, and betrayal reaches beyond political ideals.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-7914-2008-6
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1994


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