Because a Fire Was in My Head


Because a Fire Was in My Head

Lynn Stegner

Flyover Fiction Series

288 pages


April 2009


$16.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Kate Riley is not the sort of heroine we meet in most American novels. Self-centered, shape-shifting, driven from one man to another and one city to the next, she is all too real but not at all the loyal and steady homebody of idealized womanhood. When we first encounter her, Kate is about to undergo exploratory brain surgery for a condition she herself has fabricated. Sobered by the gravity of the procedure, she commences a journey of memory that takes us back to the Saskatchewan village where she grew up and to the singular event that altered her forever and irrevocably set the course of her life.
From her childhood, in which she was held captive to a mother gone mad, through her adult life, which unfolds as a mesmerizing sequence of men, abandoned children, and perpetual movement, Kate’s story is one of desperation and remarkable invention, a strangely American tale, narrated by one of our most original writers.

Author Bio

Lynn Stegner is the author of four novels, including Undertow, Fata Morgana, and Pipers at the Gates of Dawn. The manuscript for Because a Fire Was in My Head won the William Faulkner–William Wisdom Award for Best Novel of 2005. The book became a Literary Ventures Selection as well as a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection. Stegner currently teaches fiction writing in Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program and lives in Point Reyes Station with her husband, writer Page Stegner, and their daughter, Allison.


“Stunning. . . . The poetic detail of Stegner’s sentences—not to mention her wanton protagonist—is reminiscent of the novels of John Updike. . . . Because a Fire Was in My Head, her most ambitious novel so far, ought to attract for Stegner the wider audience she so richly deserves.”—Julia Scheeres, New York Times Book Review, Editor’s Choice

“A novel fully realized on every level, Because a Fire Was in My Head is a provocative literary work of weight and luster. A risky, intermittently melodramatic tale, it casts light both on the timeless mysteries of the human psyche and on the paradoxes of a notoriously contrary epoch, namely, post–World War II North America. . . . [A] bold and stunning novel.”—Donna Seaman, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Kate’s downward spiral is undoubtedly grim, but Stegner punctuates it with muted hints of redemption; the result is uncommonly satisfying.”—Publishers Weekly

“Stegner’s supple use of language and precise evocation of period and place bring a literary intuitiveness to this inventive portrait of a scheming temptress, rendering with disarming psychological acuity Kate’s warring self-serving and self-destructive tendencies. Kate is too egocentric to be a sympathetic heroine, yet through Stegner’s masterful treatment, she does become a forceful, persuasive, and wholly mesmerizing character.”—Booklist

“Sometimes a character comes along that creates a confusion of feelings within the reader. Beautiful, ambitious, and self-centered young Kate Riley, the protagonist of this latest novel from Stegner is one of those characters . . . reminding one of that classic heroine we love to hate, Madame Bovary. Who can say what made Kate the way she is—her upbringing, the repressive culture, depression?—but that’s what makes this complex and emotional literary novel a compelling yet troubling experience.”—Library Journal

Because a Fire Was in My Head will undoubtedly catapult [Stegner] to literary fame. . . . Stegner has rendered a truly tragic story, yet she writes it beautifully, demonstrating the stunning things that can be done with the English language when one is gifted.”—Deseret Morning News

“With bracing prose, Stegner turns a potential monster into a character both fascinating and pitiable; you may hate Kate, but you won’t want to leave her.”—Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

Table of Contents

[no TOC]

Also of Interest