Reviews

Of a Fire Beyond the Hills: A Novel Based on News Stories

JILL MANDRAKE

Ernest Hekkanen’s latest book, Of a Fire Beyond the Hills: A Novel Based on News Stories (New Orphic Publishers), revolves around a displaced monument that commemorates U.S. draft dodgers and deserters. The author/narrator agrees to give the statue a home in his front yard on a quaint cul-de-sac in Nelson, B.C. Then all hell breaks loose, and Hekkanen becomes the recipient of anonymous, creepy phone calls, broken living room windows, hate mail and even a cursory discussion of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Remember that old one-liner, “Even paranoids have real enemies”? When you’re in the narrator’s position of not knowing who your friends are or which enemies are tailing you, there is no better way to describe the atmosphere. Hekkanen captures the daily minutiae of life in a small town, a delightful everyday life that could tip off balance at any time. To make matters worse, tourists from down south hear of the war resisters’ monument and mouth off right to the author’s face. “I lost a good friend over in Iraq, and let me tell you this right now, Mr. Sissy Pants—if you were living down in America where I come from, you'd get tarred and feathered for being an Al-Qaeda sympathizer.” Some of this mentality reminds me of what Henry Miller said fifty years ago: we ban the sale of firecrackers to kids but meanwhile it’s okay to stockpile atom bombs. For the folks out there who are indifferent to what’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, this book seems to whisper, “Stop eating your grilled Gruyère cheese with Roma tomatoes and red onion on open-face sourdough long enough to read me, if you please.”

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JILL MANDRAKE

Jill Mandrake writes strange but true stories and leads Sister DJ’s Radio Band, featuring rhythm and blues covers, post-vaudeville original tunes and occasional comedy bits. https://hido.bandcamp.com/album/the-neti-pot

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