Fire in the Canyon

A Novel

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Pub Date 03 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 15 Dec 2023

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A New Yorker Best Book of 2023

A new novel from National Book Award nominee Daniel Gumbiner about a California grape-grower, his family, and the climate disaster that upends their quiet lives.

Since his release from prison after serving an eighteen-month sentence for growing cannabis, Ben Hecht’s life has settled into a familiar routine. On his farm in the foothills of California, he stays busy cultivating a dozen acres of grapes and tending to a flock of mistrustful sheep. Meanwhile, from her desk in their old redwood barn, his novelist wife, Ada, continues to work on what may be her most important book yet. When their only son, Yoel, comes home from Los Angeles for a rare visit, Ben is forced to confront their long troubled relationship, which has continued to degrade in recent years. But before the two of them can truly address their past, a wildfire sweeps through the region, forcing the Hecht family to flee to the coast, and setting into motion a chain of events that will transform them all. 

This is a story about grape growing and wine, financial and familial struggles, and the peculiar characters and unlikely heroes one will always find in small-town California. Through the experiences of the Hechts and the escalating challenges that face their community, Fire in the Canyon is an intimate look at the lives of those already living through the climate crisis.
A New Yorker Best Book of 2023

A new novel from National Book Award nominee Daniel Gumbiner about a California grape-grower, his family, and the climate disaster that upends their quiet lives.


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ISBN 9781662602429
PRICE $27.00 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

I enjoyed this book a lot. Reading this felt like a warm blanket. It was tender and beautiful while set in an environment that is always on the verge of disaster. I also learned a lot about wine making which was a nice surprise. I highly recommend this book!

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"Fire in the Canyon" by Daniel Gumbiner appears to be a poignant and thought-provoking novel that delves into complex themes, including family dynamics, resilience, and the impact of the climate crisis on rural communities.

At its core, the story revolves around Ben Hecht, a man who has experienced the challenges of serving time in prison and is now trying to rebuild his life by cultivating grapes and tending to sheep on his California farm. This character's journey is likely to resonate with readers as they witness his efforts to find meaning and redemption after his release.

The introduction of Ben's wife, Ada, a novelist working on a significant book, adds depth to the narrative by exploring the complexities of their marriage and the creative process. The return of their son, Yoel, further complicates their family dynamics, setting the stage for an exploration of past grievances and unresolved issues.

The wildfire that sweeps through the region serves as a powerful symbol of the climate crisis, highlighting the vulnerability of rural communities to environmental disasters. This element of the story underscores the broader themes of resilience and adaptation in the face of adversity.

The narrative's focus on grape growing, wine, and the unique characters of small-town California promises to provide readers with a rich and immersive sense of place. It's through these details that the novel paints a vivid portrait of the Hecht family's life and their community.

"Fire in the Canyon" seems to offer readers a glimpse into the lives of individuals grappling with personal and environmental challenges, making it a compelling and timely read. Daniel Gumbiner's storytelling appears to blend intimate family drama with broader societal issues, promising a novel that is both emotionally resonant and thought-provoking.

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Ben Hecht lives with his writer wife Ada in California, where he grows grapes, tends to animals, and is on constant alert for potential wildfires as the climate continues to change in the region. This risk is an ever-present risk for Ben, so he must always be ready to pack up and flee when alarms are raised. Ben and Ada have a son Yoel, who Ben is estranged from. Yoel comes back to visit just as another wildfire sweeps through the region. Fire in the Canyon is both an interior look at a family's dynamics as well as a wider look at climate change, grape growing, and financial struggles of being a farmer. Overall, this book was quite engaging- I was invested in Ben's relationship with Yoel, as well as learning about the wine industry. A slight complaint is the book ended quite abruptly for me, and felt unresolved. Additionally, there is a subplot with Yoel about climate activism that took away from the broader focus of the book on the familial dynamics.

Thanks to Astra House for the advance reader copy in exchange for honest review.

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What an extraordinarily convincing book. The style seems plain at first but that suits the story of a grape farmer trying to regain his son's trust, keep from going broke, all the while worrying about the growing threat of fires in California. Gumbiner enjoys conveying realistic information that reminds me of the late Australian writer Nevil Shute, but here it serves the purpose of the more serious story about survival in a changing environment. This isn't a message book but the story of a family in a specific place and time. It's completely engrossing and I look forward to telling my friends to read it.

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Fire in the Canyon was a beautifully simple book that posed some good questions about family, work, and the environment. I agree with another review that Gumbiner's writing style is nostalgic and soothing; Fire in the Canyon made me feel like I was reading curled up at my grandparents' house. I would read future books by the author for this reason alone.

I disagree with other reviews that Ben and Yoel's relationship fixed itself too easily. I don't think it really fixed itself at all; but rather, spending more time together gave them new things in common and they were able to move forward. Moving forward doesn't always mean you fixed what was broken.

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