Setting Fires is the gripping story of Annie Fishman Waldmas, a documentary filmmaker, wife, and mother of two young children, who uses her professional skills to unravel the shocking secrets behind the two fires that come to dominate and haunt her life.
The novel begins with a pair of phone calls that shatter Annie's contentment forever. The first brings news that Annie's country house in Connecticut has burned, in an area where two other Jewish-owned buildings have also recently burned down. The second and far more distressing call informs Annie that her beloved father -- the family patriarch, burdened by a lifelong shame that Annie will soon uncover -- has been diagnosed with cancer.
Gradually, as Annie and her father forge a new and closer bond, he is able to acknowledge his history of poverty, his struggle for survival, and the near-tragedy it led to. Annie's determination to help her father find peace and forgiveness before dying meshes inextricably with her determination to find and expose the anti-Semitic arsonist who threatens her own family.
Annie's passionate search reaches back four generations from the early roots of the Fishman clan in Russia and New York to the modern-day lives of Annie, her siblings, and their divorced parents. At the same time, it throws Annie's relationships with her own husband and children into chaos, and rocks the family life on which she has always depended for stability and support. Not until Annie discovers and resolves the final truths -- by her own wit, perseverance, and self-knowledge -- can she reestablish the harmony she treasures.
Kate Wenner, an award-winning former producer of 20/20, makes a startling fiction debut in this powerful novel about a courageous woman's struggle to come to terms with a complex family history.
Documentary filmmaker, happily married wife and mother of two, Annie Waldmas, at 40, is enjoying a successful career and stable domestic environment when, in a short span of time, two disasters strike. The Waldmas's second home in secluded Brookfield, Conn., is where Annie, news photographer husband Josh, and young children Eli and Hannah escape New York City's hectic pace, until their retreat is destroyed in a fire that may have been set by anti-Semitic arsonists. Then, Annie's beloved father, Abraham Fishman, 70, is diagnosed with a rapidly progressing form of cancer. In this intelligent, richly nuanced debut from a former producer of ABC's 20/20, Annie, who's never been religious, turns to a local rabbi for support as she tends to her dying parent, supervises the rebuilding of her country home and investigates the cause of the fire. Though the local police are satisfied that the blaze was due to faulty electrical wiring, Annie receives anonymous letters telling her that two other Jewish-owned homes in the area went up in flames. Aware that her father has only a few months to live, Annie videotapes him talking about his life and how he came to be dubbed "Manufactured Man," a self-created person in every sense. Abe tells Annie of his "mean, suffocating" mother, who, five decades earlier, set her own dry-goods store ablaze, then went on to burn down two additional businesses, imperiling several lives. Having unburdened himself of this shameful memory, Abe dies in peace, but Annie is anguished, and also alarmed enough to call the FBI when her research turns up a total of 12 fires set on Jewish property. Understated yet intense and touching, this is a sophisticated account of one woman's perseverance in learning that even a happy family can have dark secrets, and that facing them honestly can give her the strength to become a force for change.