People feel at home in Belle Haven, and in many ways it is like any other small town, with a café where regulars come for the fresh cinnamon rolls and to talk about the weather, or one another, often staying all day. It's a town with the usual collection of quirky characters--the people everyone knows who, by staying in one place long enough, have become part of its landscape. But what sets Belle Haven apart is its especially strong sense of community, which is both strengthened and tested by the uncontrollable mine fire that burns below the town. Sometimes it breaks through the earth's surface to swallow somebody's garden or a garbage can, even a beloved pet, or to threaten a house.
Those Who Favor Fire is the love story of Rachel Hearn, who has lived in Belle Haven all her life, and the man everyone calls Just Joe, who has arrived only recently--and the story of their love for the town that has brought them together. But as the fire intensi-
fies, endangering Belle Haven and its people, it also threatens what Joe and Rachel have found together. Though some reluctantly consider relocating, Rachel refuses to leave the only place she's ever called home, the place that holds her richest memories. But Joe knows the danger of becoming too firmly rooted in a place. Ultimately, Rachel and Joe must decide whether to abandon their beloved town.
In her wonderful debut novel, Lauren Wolk has created a town every bit as real as the Mitford of Jan Karon's novels and populated it with characters as quirky, lively, and endearing as Fannie Flagg's.
In picturesque, present-day Pennsylvania, the former coal-mining town of Belle Haven harbors a hidden danger: lethal fires, ignited by a burning dump, simmer below ground. Despite this hazard, residents refuse to abandon their homes, relying instead on pet canaries to detect the noxious fumes that signal impending eruptions. Enter an unpopular government agent named Mendelson, who offers to buy them out. The protagonists are young lovers: bright, resourceful Rachel Hearn, whose parents' sudden death prompts her return home from college, and Joe, a mysterious drifter who seeks solace among the town's hapless inhabitants. He's really Christopher "Kit" Barrows, Yale dropout and reluctant heir, fleeing a nasty, duplicitous father who has been abusing Kit's twin sister since she was a preadolescent. As the peril escalates--steam hisses through potholes; wells heat to boiling; animals, houses and people are sucked into an underground inferno--the stubborn townspeople, led by Rachel, still deny that Belle Haven is beyond salvation. Will Rachel relent and move to safety in the nearby community that Joe has built for her and the others? Suspense mounts as the story moves to its dramatic conclusion. First-time novelist Wolk has conceived an engrossing plot and peopled it with appealing characters. In this cautionary tale, folk elements and environmental caveats combine with a subtle yet unrelenting sense of horror to produce a fiction reminiscent of the best of Shirley Jackson. FYI: Wolk, formerly senior editor for Nelson Canada, was a contributing editor for Owl, an award-winning children's magazine.