California Poetics

A middle-class fable set in gold country.

Anyone who’s lived in California knows at least one person who has evacuated or lost a home because of a wildfire; surviving is a rite of passage and a trauma bond; the unruly nature of the landscape and the infrastructure we attempt to build within its ecosystems drives every relationship. Fire in the Canyon (Astra House), the second novel from Believer editor and native Northern Californian Daniel Gumbiner, neatly assembles a network of characters and follows them through the cycles of grape harvests, winemaking, and untamed flames.

A middle-class fable set in gold country, Fire is narrated by the Boomer-aged “self-righteous hippie,” father, and farmer Ben—the type of man who turns his smartphone off at night for fear of 5G radiation. His wife Ada, a writer, works in an office littered with empty kombucha bottles. They are both obsessed with the Enneagram. Their only son, Yoel, is sensitive like “a grape with no skin” and hasn’t spoken to his father in two years. When Yoel returns from Los Angeles just in time for wine-making season, a wildfire forces him and his …

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