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A Forest Burning

by Carole Giangrande

Carole Giangrande’s rich and ambitious new novel, A Forest Burning, is a story of generations of loss, soul baring, and secrets. The central story, which unfolds carefully, if a little pedantically, is much more compelling than the characters whose lives determine and are determined by it.

When we first meet Sally Groves, she lives alone in a sparse cabin on Gold Dust Lake, near Timmins, and flies planes for a living. As a child, Sally’s parents disappeared under mysterious circumstances. As an adult, it seems only natural that life around her should be erased, continuing a familiar legacy of disappearance and destruction. She bears witness to a succession of blazes that blight landscapes from Vietnam to Northern Ontario, stealing not only lives, but the souls of those who survive.

On a dry summer day in 1995 she pilots a plane escorting a helicopter of reporters over a forest fire. Lorne Winter, a famous photojournalist, makes a suicidal leap into the flames, stunning not only his old friend Sally, but all of the CNN-hooked world. In Toronto, Gabe Winter watches the television in horrified anger as his adoptive father, a Vietnam vet, plunges to his death.

The questions surrounding the incident provoke a search in which the complicated and tangled histories of Sally, Lorne, Gabe, and others (a few too many others) are unraveled. While it is difficult to empathize with these occasionally strained and one dimensional-characters, Giangrande nevertheless manages to offer earnest and powerful insight into the complexities of human relationships framed by tragedy. The revelations are shocking, and the telling of the details leading up to them engaging enough to sustain dramatic tension to the end of the book.


Reviewer: Camilla Gibb

Publisher: Cormorant Books


Price: $22.95

Page Count: 340 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 1-896951-25-2

Released: Sept.

Issue Date: 2000-10

Categories: Fiction: Novels