Who by Fire is a powerful, passionate novel about the march of “progress” and the environments, families, and ways of life destroyed in its wake.
The heart of this moving story belongs to Tom Ryder–a man whose expectations for the future and assumptions about his own strength and power are persistently and devastatingly undermined by the arrival of a sour gas plant on the border of his southern Alberta farm in the early 1960s. The emissions from the plant poison not only his livestock but the relationships he has with his family, most especially with his wife, Ella. The family is left without viable legal recource against the plant, and Tom must watch his farm dwindle away, his sense of himself dwindling away with it.
The novel moves into the present with the story of Tom’s son, Bill, who reacts to his father’s disappointments by rising through the managerial ranks of an oil company in Fort McMurray, hiding from his guilt in the local casino. Bill pushes himself towards a crisis in conscience through a relationship he has with a Native woman whose community is threatened by the actions of his company.
About the Author
Fred Stenson is the author of The Trade, which was nominated for the 2000 Giller Prize and won the inaugural Grant MacEwan Writer’s Award, the City of Edmonton Book Prize, and the Writers Guild of Alberta’s Georges Bugnet Novel Award. Who by Fire is Stenson’s seventh book of fiction and fifteenth book overall. He has also written scripts for over 140 produced films and videos. He writes a regular humour column for Alberta Views Magazine. He was raised on a farm in the Alberta foothills north of Chief Mountain and lives in Cochrane, Alberta.
Who by Fire is the brilliant portrait of an Alberta family told unflinchingly by one of its most skilful writers. Caught in the grip of an issue that affects us all – the management of Earth’s renewable resources – Stenson’s nuanced and conflicted characters resonate profoundly with the reader. But this is no mere cautionary tale. With masterful storytelling, Stenson has crafted a compelling narrative in which we may all be complicit.