Top positive review
Savagely funny and sad underbelly of the American dream...
on February 13, 2001
A.M. Homes is a gifted writer who makes her readers squirm. In "The End of Alice," she paints a disturbingly twisted portrait of a pedophile. And now, in "Music for Torching," she gives us a savagely funny and sad portrait of the underbelly of suburban life. She has a gift of drawing the reader in, making us love, hate and identify with her characters. Her dialogue is knife sharp with multi-layered meanings, her situations seem real but yet out of proportion and the book reads like a reflection in a distorted fun house mirror.
Paul and Elaine, a married couple in Westchester, are bored and frustrated with their lives. On a whim, they set fire to their house and spend the night in a motel with their two young sons. Instead of this being the ultimate act of freedom for them, however, it is the beginning of an even tighter trap as the house is only damaged, not completely destroyed and they are thrust into a whirlwind of savagely funny and sad relationships with their own children, their neighbors and their respective lovers.
There's violence, graphic sex and moments of internal terror and confusion for Paul and Elaine as their life spins out of control. They are pathetically flawed and yet sympathetic human beings and reflect moods and emotions that we'd rather not admit might lurk under the surface. Ultimately, the book concludes with an senseless act of violence that reminds of some recent lurid headlines. All of this is woven together seamlessly with a story that moves so quickly that it's only after the book was finished and it continued to haunt me that I could look back and see the depth of Ms. Homes' understanding of the simmering volcanic cesspool of human emotions that lie festering under the surface.
This book is uncomfortable to read and not for everybody, but I thought it was excellent and intend to read some of this author's earlier work. Recommended.