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"The Fires"

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Stuck in her hometown of Porter, Indiana, 22-year-old Ella -- the heroine of Rene Steinke's lyrical first novel, The Fires (William Morrow; $23) -- spends her days mourning her grandfather's death, evenings drinking whiskey at the Paradise Bar, and nights seducing travelers at the Linden Hotel, refusing to take off her clothes until all the lights are out. Like the secrets her family is hiding, her high-necked vintage dresses cover up a severely scarred body, an old shame, and the root of an obsession with fire. Watching things burn is Ella's emotional release. It is all a bit strange, but it's beautifully described: "Setting a fire was like making a summer from childhood, the way the sun winked at you in the trees, scattered sequins on the surface of the lake, and made its rays walk over you and back in the water."


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