Beneath the Bonfire

Nickolas Butler

11 February 2016
272 pages


Young couples gather to participate in an annual 'chainsaw party', cutting down trees for firewood in anticipation of the winter. A group of men spend a weekend in the wilderness where they grew up, and where some still find themselves trapped. An ageing environmentalist takes out his frustration and anger on a singular, unsuspecting target. A woman helps another get revenge against a man whose crime extends to an entire community.

In these ten stories, Nickolas Butler demonstrates his talent for portraying a place and its people with unparalleled tenderness, evoking an American landscape that will be instantly recognizable to readers enchanted by his debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs.

Some narratives have been gloriously expanded into fully molded works of art, while others are mere portraits, short yet no less poignant . . . Sensitive to the human condition, Butler continues to demonstrate his impressive command of atmosphere and humanity
Butler's characters could have emerged from vintage American rock songs, living on small hopes and banding together as best they can
I love these stories: they're quiet, careful. As glaciated as their own vistas. Without a doubt, Beneath the Bonfire is a diamond of a collection, shaped and hardened through the profound geologic pressures of love and pain