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Fred Stenson, New Release: Who by Fire

September 25, 2014 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

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Join us for the launch of Fred Stenson’s new release Who by Fire.

From the award-winning, bestselling author of The Trade, Lightning and The Great Karoo, comes a powerful, passionate novel about two generations of a family caught in the path of progress.

It’s 1960 and Alladin Oil and Gas breaks ground for a sour gas processing plant in southern Alberta. The plant malfunctions, with immediate impact on the farmers living nearby. The escaping gas is not just sickening; it has the power to kill. Fences and farm equipment corrode; animals die. When the farmers complain to government, they are not believed. The town that used to rely on their custom is now flush with oil money and calls the farmers hysterics, potential killers of the golden goose.

At the heart of this story is the Ryder family: Tom, Ella, and their three children. Their farm, Ella’s birthplace, is less than a kilometre downwind of the plant. On bad days, toxic hydrogen sulphide rolls down the slope to their home. As strife grows within the family and the community, time is divided into the world as it existed before the plant and the world after.

As a farmer and father, Tom Ryder steadily loses faith in himself and his ability to protect his family. He wants to battle the company even as he fears that the value he and Ella have built in their lifetime will be lost. At worst, both Tom and Ella fear their children could die.

Who by Fire moves from the 1960s into the present day, where the Ryder children are middle-aged survivors, still trying to make sense of their journey. Bill, the only son, went to work in the oil industry long ago. Now, near the end of his career, he manages a unit in an oil sands upgrader north of Fort McMurray. He juggles work and bad habits, and avoids the tough questions, until a local Native woman confronts him. Life-long issues of loyalty rise up and he is forced again to choose.

Who by Fire is a novel of rare emotional depth and profound resonance. With unflinching truthfulness and precise detail, Fred Stenson portrays a collision between industry and community, and the struggle to rise above the damage done. 

FRED STENSON is the author of The Trade, which was nominated for the 2000 Giller Prize and won the City of Edmonton Book Prize, the Charles Bugnet Novel Award and the inaugural Grant MacEwan Author’s Prize. Lightning won the Grant MacEwan Author’s Prize in 2005. The Great Karoo, Stenson’s eighth work of fiction, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction in 2008.  He was raised in the Alberta foothills north of Chief Mountain and lives with his wife, Pamela Banting, in Cochrane, Alberta.  

Praise for Fred Stenson

Praise for The Great Karoo

“A truly magnificent novel by one of Canada’s greatest living writers.”

~ David Adams Richards, author of Mercy Among the Children and Crimes Against My Brother

“A masterly work at once original, subversive, and significant… Stenson has a superb eye for detail… linguistic mastery is the rule not the exception.”

~ The Globe and Mail

Praise for Lightning

“With Lightning, [Stenson] becomes Canada’s answer to the likes of Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy.”

~ Edmonton Journal

“An achievement… Chock-full of beautifully drawn characters, each described in honest, original terms.”

~The Globe and Mail

Praise for The Trade

“[Stenson’s] precise sense of detail and his meticulous research all combine to make The Trade a mesmerizing read, eloquent and heartbreaking.”

~ Ottawa Citizen

“Presented with unflinching realism and a vivid awareness of the harshness of man and nature… Stenson does a brilliant job of showing the isolated, precarious existence of the individuals whose lives are ruled by the company.”

~ Calgary Herald

Twitter: @fstenson


September 25, 2014
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
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