"Be incredible!" That's the advice Teresa Rae Wood gives the listeners of her popular local radio show, Modern Pioneers!, a kind of hippie Praire Home Companion. Teresa has taken the advice to heart in her own life. As a teen mother and abused wife, she escaped with her two children to rural Minnesota, fell in love with a local carpenter, and raised good kids, Claire and Joshua. Then, at only 38, she receives the devastating news that she is gravely ill. In just a few weeks, she is gone.
The award-winning writer Cheryl Strayed creates from this shattering experience a novel that reviewers have called "an unforgettable read" and "a hauntingly beautiful story" that "shimmers with a humane grace." *
Infused with compassion and surprising humor, Torch takes a refreshingly unsentimental view of a family reeling from crisis. Claire drops out of college to devote herself to keeping her mother's memory alive back home. Joshua drifts out of high school and into trouble, keeping his grief silently private. Suddenly thrown into adulthood, they struggle to figure out how to connect in this new, unthinkable situation. Their one remaining ballast is Teresa's gentle common-law husband, Bruce. When Bruce announces news of his own plans, it comes as a shock not only to Claire and Joshua but also to the townspeople who have watched this unusual family grow and have come to love them.
Cheryl Strayed has a deep appreciation for the shifting rhythms between siblings and parents and for the beautiful terrors of learning how to keep living. The wonderful characters in Torch come alive and stay with you long after the novel ends.
*Library Journal; Kirkus Reviews; Publishers Weekly
Cheryl Strayed's award-winning stories and essays have appeared in more than a dozen magazines, including the New York Times Magazine, Allure, Self, The Sun, and Nerve. Widely anthologized, her work is featured in The Best New American Voices 2003 and has been selected twice for The Best American Essays. Raised in Minnesota, Strayed has worked as a political organizer for women’s advocacy groups and was an outreach worker at a sexual violence center in Minneapolis. She holds an M.F.A. from the Syracuse University Graduate Creative Writing Program. She now lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two children.