“Fire Exit, Morgan Talty’s debut novel, is utterly consuming. The novel absolutely smolders.”—Tommy Orange
Does she remember this day? Does she remember it at all? Does she know this history—this story—her body holds secret from her?
From the porch of his home, Charles Lamosway has watched the life he might have had unfold across the river on Maine’s Penobscot Reservation. On the far bank, he caught brief moments of Roger and Mary raising their only child, Elizabeth—from the day she came home from the hospital to her early twenties. But there’s always been something deeper and more dangerous than the river that divides him from this family and the rest of the tribal community. It’s the secret that Elizabeth is his daughter, a secret Charles is no longer willing to keep.
Now it’s been weeks since he’s seen Elizabeth and Charles is worried. As he attempts to hold on and care for what he can: his home and property, his alcoholic, quick-tempered and big-hearted friend Bobby, and his mother, Louise, who is slipping ever-deeper into dementia—he becomes increasingly haunted by his past. Forced to confront a lost childhood on the reservation, a love affair cut short, and the death of his beloved stepfather, Fredrick, in a hunting accident—a death that he and Louise cannot agree where to lay the blame—Charles contends with questions he’s long been afraid to ask. Is it his secret to share? And would his daughter want to know the truth?
From award-winning author of Night of the Living Rez, Morgan Talty’s debut novel, Fire Exit, is a masterful and unforgettable story of family, legacy, bloodlines, culture and inheritance, and what, if anything, we owe one another.
Fire Exit, Morgan Talty’s debut novel, is utterly consuming. With this book, Talty more than fulfills the promise of his glorious short story collection, Night of the Living Rez. The storytelling is both spellbinding and quietly devastating. The novel is ultimately about family and belonging, about the stories we need to know even when they threaten to burn our lives down. A father desperately wants to let his daughter know about her body’s secret history, even while his mother forgets her son altogether. This book is filled with humor, and humanity’s strange wonder at its own desperation and depravity, as only Talty can do, with his subtle charm and crystalline prose, his sober reckoning with what love can and cannot do, what healing is and is not possible in our families. The novel absolutely smolders.
Fire Exit is gorgeous. A genuinely original examination of the costs we pay to tell ourselves certain stories about who we are and where we come from. Talty is a revelation on matters of the heart, particularly the tenderness and warfare of contemporary manhood. This is that rare thing: a frankly honest novel about hard things written without a trace of bitterness. I loved it.
Talty’s writings feels to me like a gift of many lifetimes. Forgiveness, Morgan shows us, is also the work of a lifetime. The people to whom we feel closest can somehow be right beside us in the kitchen and simultaneously on some unreachably distant planet. People rotate away from each other for days or seasons at a time, and it’s miraculous when they return to find each other again, turning towards each other instead of away. It’s a treacherous thing, to love another person in this world that mixes so much beauty with so much sorrow. Thank you for reminding us, Morgan, that it is the necessary thing.