One of Ploughshares "Most Necessary Books for the End of 2016"
The lives of four teenagers are capsized by a shocking school shooting and its aftermath in this powerful debut novel, a coming-of-age story with the haunting power of Station Eleven and the bittersweet poignancy of Everything I Never Told You.
As members of the yearbook committee, Nick, Zola, Matt, and Christina are eager to capture all the memorable moments of their junior year at Lewis and Clark High School—the plays and football games, dances and fund-drives, teachers and classes that are the epicenter of their teenage lives. But how do you document a horrific tragedy—a deadly school shooting by a classmate?
Struggling to comprehend this cataclysmic event—and propelled by a sense of responsibility to the town, their parents, and their school—these four "lucky" survivors vow to honor the memories of those lost, and also, the memories forgotten in the shadow of violence. But the shooting is only the first inexplicable trauma to rock their small suburban St. Louis town. A series of mysterious house fires have hit the families of the victims one by one, pushing the grieving town to the edge.
Nick, the son of the lead detective investigating the events, plunges into the case on his own, scouring the Internet to uncover what could cause a fire with no evident starting point. As their friend pulls farther away, Matt and Christina battle to save damaged relationships, while Zola fights to keep herself together.
A story of grief, community, and family, of the search for understanding and normalcy in the wake of devastating loss, Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down explores profound questions about resiliency, memory, and recovery that brilliantly illuminate the deepest recesses of the human heart.
About the Author
Anne Valente’s first short-story collection, By Light We Knew Our Names, won the Dzanc Books Short Story Prize. Her fiction appears in One Story, The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, and the Chicago Tribune, and her essays appear in The Believer and the Washington Post. Originally from St. Louis, she teaches creative writing and literature at Hamilton College.
“Valente’s beautiful, elegiac novel about a community in mourning, and the unseen forces that unravel and consume us after a tragedy, is a work of heartbreaking timeliness.” — J. Ryan Stradal, New York Times bestselling author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest
“Haunting...Written in the collective voice...à la Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides, Valente artfully employs...newspaper articles, and biographies of teh victims on the way to an unforgettable ending, with fire serving as a powerfully fitting metaphor for grief, loss...and the nature of fate.” — Publishers Weekly
“Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down is a beautifully written, lyrical book wrapped up in a compelling mystery with shades of Stephen King. Gripping and profound, a terrific debut.” — Kate Hamer, author of The Girl in the Red Coat
“Breathtaking...Riveting characters...This reader found herself increasingly spellbound by this remarkable and urgent debut novel.” — Laura van den Berg, author of Find Me
“Valente is a sorceress...This is a gorgeous book full of mysteries. It scorches with truth, and sings with hope. Valente writes like all of our lives depend on it.” — Diane Cook, author of Man V. Nature
“Pulsing, eerie, and impossible to put down...In a cultural moment in which mass violence is shockingly prevalent, Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down is that rare gift; a book that is as resonant as it is surprising, as timely as it is soulful.” — Chloe Benjamin, author of The Anatomy of Dreams
“Gripping, visceral...I couldn’t stop reading--or caring about these characters...There’s a tinge of mythic eeriness to this story...but it was the resilient, appealing characters who propelled me through this intense novel, and lingered long after its close.” — Sharon Guskin, author of The Forgetting Time
“One of the most compelling novles I’ve read in years.” — Matt Bell, author of Scrapper
“Lyrical, mysterious, and structurally innovative...This is a book we need now more than ever.” — Kelly Luce, author of Pull Me Under