Thursday, May 21, 2009

Book review: An Arsonist's Guide to Writer's Homes in New England, Brock Clarke


Sam Pulsifer is a bumbler. Raised by academics, he's not particularly good at understanding himself or other people, and appears to have boundary issues. He doesn't pick up on social cues, and just doesn't "get" what's going on around him.

That doesn't impede his capacity for love, though. Or to understand betrayal, both his own and that of those he loves.

He spent ten years in prison for accidentally burning down the Emily Dickinson house and killing two people inside.

I found his slowness and stupidity to be frustrating at times, and it was hard to be sympathetic to his plight when he makes so many amazingly, glaringly stupid mistakes.

He leaves prison and tries to start over. He marries and has two children. He has a good job and things seem to be going pretty well...or at least pretty normally. But then copycat arsons start happening at other famous New England writers' homes. As Sam tries to figure out who's behind the fires, suspicion turns toward him. And Sam is a bumbler.

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