“My father was a man who believed history repeated itself. Not in the large ways of nations and of wars, but in the smaller ways of families. He was a religious man, and he believed that the patterns of the universe were fixed in place, infinite but static, revealed to the devout through the pure concentration of prayer. What is destiny, and what is in the power of a single individual?”
These are a few of the many thought-provoking and necessary questions this elegant, enchanting, and intelligent voice probes in the collection of eleven stories, many of them award-winning, and published in our finest magazines.
The characters in these stories are often separated from the mainstream—a juggler and a trapeze artists, a daughter whose mother is a public evangelist waging a war aginst sin, a cleaning woman whose life is inexplicably tied to Marie Curie’s. The stories they in habit transcend the barriers of time to explore the universally driving force of our experience: the magnitude of human love.
In “Spring, Mountain, Sea” a young American brings his Korean bride home after serving in the war, and finds himself isolated from both his own culture and the culture of his new family. In “Gold” a Malaysian rubber tapper becomes obsessed with the possibility of becoming as wealthy as the foreign landowners who visit his village, and in his quest for gold nearly destroys the enduring relationships that have shaped his life. In the title story the narrator—a fire-eater in a circus—shows a careless disregard for a boy who comes to learn his trade and as a consequence brings about his own destruction.
Taking us to exotic and remote places in America, Europe, and Asia, The Secrets of a Fire King is at once magical and profound, marking the extraordinary debut of a new voice in American fiction.