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Hannah’s Pick of the Week: Fire Exit by Morgan Talty


Book Cover of Morgan Talty's Fire Exit


“The gesture, the first time recognizing me, how could I forget it? And to have it followed by her voice, the first intelligible words I heard her speak, so near, the only time I’ve regretted the wind, wished it away, that slight breeze that carried her breath away from me.

How terribly did I want to know her.”

Morgan Talty, Fire Exit, pg. 11


Charles Lamosway has watched Elizabeth Eunice Francis grow like a vine since the day she was brought home from the hospital, in that blustery January of 1991. Separated by both a river and by the boundaries of the Maine Penobscot Reservation, Charles had held a secret for the past few decades — that he, a white man, is Elizabeth’s father. Elizabeth has been raised her entire life by her mother Mary and Roger, a Penobscot man Mary had married in order for Elizabeth to be added to the Penobscot census under blood quantum rules. Now, Charles has seen neither Mary nor Elizabeth for several weeks, and, spurred on by his friend Bobby and by the slow mental decline of his mother Louise, Charles has decided to come forward with his secret, no matter the consequences.

Sparse yet gorgeously written, Fire Exit is a character study that explores the point of view of both a young and old Charles, diving into loneliness, family, relationships, guilt and regrets, and hope. Charles is haunted by a past he cannot change, seeking closure about his own Penobscot self-father Fredrick who was killed in a hunting accident, and a future in limbo, aching to reach out to a daughter who he has only seen grow up in brief vignettes. Talty explores other characters who live on and off the reservation as well, folding them into the narrative with tender hands.

If you are searching for a melancholic family drama that centers indigenous identity such as Calling for a Blanket Dance by Oscar Hokeah; if you enjoy the depth of character and lyrical closeness of Louise Erdrich’s The Round House; or if you were a fan of Talty’s debut short story collection Night of the Living Rez, then I recommend Fire Exit. It comes out on June 4 of this year.


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Categories: Blog, Books and More

Tags: Blog, Books and More

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