This book gets: ♥♥♥♥ out of 5
The Prescribed Burn, by Laryssa Wirstiuk – This collection of short stories revolves around the life of Veda, a second-generation Ukrainian girl growing up in Jersey, learning why girls diet, why boys are irresistible, and how art ties it all together.
I believe there is a particular kind of reader for every particular kind of book. The Prescribed Burn is a book about growing up–for grown-ups. It’s about realizing your friends are shaving their legs and no longer eating Pringles, and how that realization, at one point, changed your life. The storytelling style is thoughtful and long-winded, which really works for the type of collection this is. It’s a meditation on coming of age as a girl and coming to terms with your shortcomings.
Veda’s experiences will ring true with anyone who’s done the hard work of getting through adolescence without needing serious therapy. She’s an everygirl with a punch; someone who speaks to you without being too forward, but doesn’t shy away from the stories that make us all feel human–those embarrassing, unlikable moments that, somehow, make a heroine like Veda even more likable.
Wirstiuk is playing a tricky flute with The Prescribed Burn. She weaves Veda’s vignettes from many different points in time. A lesser writer might have told them all in the same style, but Wirstiuk firmly places each of her “Vedas” in their respective voices. Pubescent Veda, gawking at the other girls and their tight shorts and pink lip gloss; high school Veda, who’s (unfortunately) on a diet herself now; even college-aged Veda, wrestling with a tempestuous love life. Each speaks with a familiar, and yet distinctly age-appropriate voice.
At first I thought it was strange that the anthology bounces around in time (we go from grown Veda to middle school Veda) but the stories are thematically-arranged, and not chronologically. That would be too linear for an author with a sneaky streak like Wirstiuk. And it works.
There was some fluff in The Prescribed Burn that I could have done without–at one point, Veda observes someone wearing a “two-carat diamond princess cut engagement ring”–but I don’t think it detracts too much from the flow and style.
This is a book I can see lending to my mom, my best friend, and my little cousin, and they will all get something different out of it. A good (and often surprising) first showing from a new author. (And, if you read my Twitter feed, you might remember that the prologue made me cry. Yeah. I admitted it. SO WHAT.)
Here is the story behind this book, which I’d like to share with you because it is curious and interesting:
From the author: “At a transitional time for the publishing industry, The Prescribed Burn is also a new media success story. Using popular crowd-funding platform Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com), Painted Egg Press raised the funds needed to print the first paperback edition of this story collection. In addition, Painted Egg Press has created an online community and forum for readers of The Prescribed Burn.
Bonus material in the paperback edition ($17.95) includes 15 color photographs, a 16th bonus crowd-sourced story, questions for discussion, creative writing exercises, and Veda’s Guide to a Creative Life. For reviewers who prefer digital formats, the book is also available in .mobi and .epub editions. To learn more about the book, please visit www.theprescribedburn.com.”
I got the paperback version with the photos. Yeah, I know you’re jealous. Suckers!