Fire Exit: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Charles is haunted by the missing pieces of his history, his emotionally absent mother, his adoring father who he couldn't save, and his daughter who he can't speak with. He decides to write the story of his (known) life for his daughter; he's convinced she needs it to make her own history complete. The complexities of reservation life add a sharp edge to an otherwise earnest and tender tale.

— Kay Wosewick

I am a fan of beautifully crafted prose, but sometimes it's a huge relief to read a story told straight at me. Morgan Talty is especially good at it, saying just what's needed and only when it's necessary. He tells us a direct story, narrated by a white man named Charles. For decades, Charles is conflicted by a girl growing up across the river from his house. She lives on the Penobscot Nation’s land. He does not. He doesn’t have the indigenous blood to live there. She does, but she also has his blood. She’s never known that he’s her biological father. At the same time, his own father has died, and his ill mother is forgetting who he is. The odd circumstances of family can silence the most basic truths, and yet some things demand to be said, even at great risk. Doesn’t truth always matter? Indigenous suffering is clear in Fire Exit, but Talty says the book is not “seeking truth about colonialism. It is a story about us, all of us. We are nothing without each other.” Love to you, Morgan Talty!

— Tim McCarthy

June 2024 Indie Next List

“A gorgeous and all-consuming novel, Fire Exit lays bare the consequences of one man’s decisions, and his resolve to reconcile his past by taking care of his aging mother and seeking a connection with his unknown daughter. Unforgettable.”
— Olivia Marchese, Author's Note, Medina, NY


“Utterly consuming. . . . Fire Exit absolutely smolders.”—Tommy Orange

 The blood that came out of me was blood that ran through her veins. It’s strange: all bloodlooks the same, yet it’s different, we’re told, in so many various ways and for so many various reasons. But one thing is for certain, I thought: you are who you are, even if you don’t know it.

From the porch of his home, Charles Lamosway has watched the life he might have had unfold across the river on Maine’s Penobscot Reservation. On the far bank, he caught brief moments of his neighbor Elizabeth’s life—from the day she came home from the hospital to her early twenties. But there’s always been something deeper and more dangerous than the river that divides him from her and the rest of the tribal community. It’s the secret that Elizabeth is his daughter, a secret Charles is no longer willing to keep.

Now, it’s been weeks since he’s seen Elizabeth, and Charles is worried. As he attempts to hold on to and care for what he can—his home and property; his alcoholic, quick-tempered, and bighearted friend Bobby; and his mother, Louise, who is slipping ever deeper into dementia—

he becomes increasingly haunted by his past. Forced to confront a lost childhood on the reservation, a love affair cut short, and the death of his beloved stepfather, Fredrick, in a hunting accident—a death he and Louise are at odds over as to where to lay blame—Charles contends with questions he’s long been afraid to ask. Is his secret about Elizabeth his to share? And would his daughter want to know the truth, even if it could cost her everything she’s ever known?

From the award-winning author of Night of the Living Rez, Morgan Talty’s debut novel, Fire Exit, is a masterful and unforgettable story of family, legacy, bloodlines, culture and inheritance, and what, if anything, we owe one another.

About the Author

Morgan Talty is a citizen of the Penobscot Indian Nation. His debut short story collection, Night of the Living Rez, won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Sue Kaufman Prize, the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, the New England Book Award, the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Honor, and was a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, the Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award, and The Story Prize. His writing has appeared in The Georgia Review, Granta, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, Narrative, Lit Hub, and elsewhere. Talty is an assistant professor of English in Creative Writing and Native American and Contemporary Literature at the University of Maine, Orono, and he is on the faculty at the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing as well as the Institute of American Indian Arts. He lives in Levant, Maine.

Praise For…

In this deliberately paced, moody novel, Talty, himself a citizen of the Penobscot Nation, considers questions of identity.
— Kirkus Reviews

Tender and heartbreaking. . . . sweetened with touches of humor, the novel raises important questions about human connection and belonging.
— Booklist, Starred Review

Absolutely soars. . . . you will come out of this book better than you were going in.
— Barnes & Noble, A Most Anticipated Debut of 2024

Utterly absorbing. . . .  compassionately addresses tough choices in matters of family and love.
— Shelf Awareness

Utterly consuming. With Talty’s subtle charm and crystalline prose. . . . Fire Exit absolutely smolders.

— Tommy Orange

Gorgeous. . . . I loved it.
— Brandon Taylor

Talty’s writing is a gift of many lifetimes.

— Karen Russell

Product Details
ISBN: 9781959030553
ISBN-10: 1959030558
Publisher: Tin House Books
Publication Date: June 4th, 2024
Pages: 256
Language: English