Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mendocino Fire by Elizabeth Tallent - #review

The long-awaited return of a writer of rare emotional wisdom.

The son of an aging fisherman becomes ensnared in a violent incident that forces him to confront his broken relationship with his father. A woman travels halfway across the country to look for her ex-husband, only to find her attention drawn in a surprising direction. A millworker gives safe harbor to his son's pregnant girlfriend, until an ambiguous gesture upsets their uneasy equilibrium. These and other stories—of yearning, loss, and tentative new connections—come together in Mendocino Fire, the first new collection in two decades from the widely admired Elizabeth Tallent.

Diverse in character and setting, rendered in an exhilarating, exacting prose, these stories confirm Tallent's enduring gift for capturing relationships in moments of transformation: marriages breaking apart, people haunted by memories of old love and reaching haltingly toward new futures. The result is a book that reminds us how our lives are shaped by moments of fracture and fragmentation, by expectations met and thwarted, and by our never-ending quest to be genuinely seen.

Profound yet elemental, Mendocino Fire marks the welcome return of a sage and surprising voice in American fiction.



I love cozy mysteries.  The stories are great, and easy to read.

Mendocino Fire, on the other hand, is not a cozy book.  There are numerous short stories in this book, but all are very deep.  Like middle-of-the-ocean deep.  Reading this book like taking a backstage tour at a Shakespeare play, while the performance is going on.  You have the flow of meaningful words, and insights into the characters and settings by our theatre docent, Elizabeth Tallent.

I know Shakespeare's language intimidates some people, but there are no worries about that in Mendocino Fire.  The language is accessible to all levels of readers, while challenging them (us) to rise above our everyday reading.  It was really kind of exciting.

If I would have any cautions about the stories, it would be that this is not the kind of story collection you can read in one sitting.  The emotions are alternatively raw, rich and full.  So I would advise, "Take your time with this one."  You'll get through the book just the same, and you will savour the experience.



Elizabeth Tallent is the author of the story collections Honey, In Constant Flight, and Time with Children, and the novel Museum Pieces. Since 1994 she has taught in the Creative Writing program at Stanford University. She lives on the Mendocino coast of California.



Click the logo 'tour host' button to go to the tour page, where you will find links to many more reviews.  You can also find out how to apply to become a tour host for TLC yourself!

(Disclosure:  I received  copy of this book from the author and publishers via TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)


  1. "backstage tour at a Shakespeare play." That's so evocative! I'm glad you enjoyed the book. Thanks for being on the tour!

  2. Thanks for the advice about taking time to read and savor each story and not rush through them. This book looks like one to be absorbed slowly.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.