Torch
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Torch

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3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  2,208 ratings  ·  368 reviews
"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 J...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published January 8th 2007 by Mariner Books (first published 2006)
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jo
i'm kind of moved to see so many people review this now that cheryl strayed has finally told us she is sugar of the rumpus (she "came out" on valentine's day, 2012). sugar is so much loved, so much justly loved, that her readers are flocking to her books and her articles to read more by her.

if you have followed sugar's advice columns (and they are NOT ordinary advice columns: they are masterpieces of wisdom, wit, beauty, and life) this book won't entirely surprise you. it belongs with the same p...more
Tracie
After everyone freaked out about Wild (which is not available for normal people to read/buy yet) I had to find out who this Cheryl Strayed person is, so I got her first book.

I have a hard time with this star system. Three is too low, but that's what my gut is telling me now that's it's been a week since I've finished it. There were times, a lot of times, where I LOVED this book. It's incredibly well written and Strayed has a way of phrasing super complex emotional/feeling things in ways that ma...more
Susan
Sometimes a book becomes more than a book...for me, usually it is a book of poetry, or a poem in particular, something to hang on to when things are not going well. You know those days/weeks/God help you if it's months, when things just falling badly like dominos, one falling brick after another, until you are wondering if there is an ancient gypsy curse on your family or what. This has been my March. A friend had recommended awhile ago that I read an essay in The Sun by Cheryl Strayed which led...more
Monika
It's not often that I don't finish a book. I fell in love with Cheryl Strayed after reading Wild and Dear Sugar, so I was looking forward to consuming everything I could get my hands on. It's clear, though, that Torch isn't what made her for a reason. There is nothing wrong with the book, it just isn't very compelling. After reading the other books and being familiar with Strayed's story, I can't help but think of this as more of a therapeutic writing project for her to explore her feelings abou...more
Erica Verrillo
I confess that when I first picked up this book, I had no intention of bringing it home with me. Who wants to read about death and its terrible aftermath--loss, grief, anger? As it turns out--I did.

From the very first sentence, I was hooked. I read the second sentence, and third and fourth, until I realized that I would rather be reading it at home than standing in an aisle. As soon as I got home I opened the book and read it non-stop for two days. I devoured every single word.

What is amazing ab...more
Laura Lemay


I am another newcomer to Cheryl Strayed via the Dear Sugar column. This was my first "real" CS book, and I knew going in that it was her first novel, and very autobiographical.

On the one hand, this is a really dark, harrowing, moving, emotional book. It's about a mother who dies of cancer at 38 and how her family falls apart and does horrible things to each other in the aftermath, and how they start to rebuild their lives and relationships afterwards. A funny fast-paced romp, great for the beac...more
Rivka
I always think of Anne Carson's preface to Euripides when I think about grief: "Why does tragedy exist? Because you are full of rage. Why are you full of rage? Because you are full of grief." This kept coming up for me throughout Torch.

I found myself watching the writing and reading the book as though a close friend had written it (the writing felt very familiar, as though I read it weekly, as though I stamped some particular turns of phrase into my memory) and it reminded me that if I start wr...more
Ashley
I'm really unsure why this book has gotten so many good reviews. There was nothing endearing or redeeming about it. I understand flawed characters, but there was nothing remotely likable about any of them, including their relationships with each other. If it is a story about a mother's love and her legacy to her children, then it was a poor example. If it is a book about coping, and stages of grief, then it is also a poor example. Each character deals in the exact same way- with sex. And there i...more
Jane
A friend whose significant other died recently of lymphoma lent me this book, and as I read it I wondered how she could bear to read it herself. The painfulness of the topic aside, it's a realistic look at first, the process of dying from cancer, and second, the effect of the death of a young mom on her two kids and their step-dad. Claire, the daughter, is at the U of Minnesota, and her brother is still in high school in a small Minnesota town. Each family member deals with the death differently...more
Melanie
Cheryl's story is painfully close to home, but she manages to make the telling a healing journey. She is, quite simply, my literary hero.
Cynthia Sinsap
I purchased the book simply because it was by the author of the memoir "Wild." When I started reading the novel, I had to check the cover a couple times to see if I had put down Torch and accidentally picked up Wild instead. The thought that went through my head at several points in the beginning sections of the book was, "If you copy from yourself, is it still plagiarism?" At one point and entire long paragraph was an exact copy of a paragraph in Wild. Perhaps it wouldn't have irritated me so m...more
Katie Kenig
I picked up Torch from the library because I loved loved loved "Wild," Cheryl Strayed's memoir of her trek along the Pacific Coast Trail. I identified with her. I liked her style, I liked her writing, and I loved her story. When I found out that she'd published a work of fiction some seven years ago, I couldn't resist!

I might should have resisted.

It's not so much that this is a bad book, but this is a very thinly veiled memoir of what actually happened to Strayed, much of which you will already...more
Jen Raffensperger
In the months following Cheryl Strayed's "coming out" as the Dear Sugar advice columnist on The Rumpus, I've devoured her writing. To me this doesn't stand up to Wild, perhaps because it's a fictionalization. Don't let me 3 stars feel lukewarm to you though - they're three enthusiastic stars. Stories of grief, of rapid loss of a parent to cancer specifically hit me in a really personal place. My reaction is probably different from someone who hasn't been through this (although goodness knows man...more
Wilhelmina
"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold". Yeats said it, it has been used a million times, and it is the primary thought that kept recurring to me as I read this heartbreaking book. Teresa, the mother and wife and the core of the family, dies of cancer, and the family grieves and crumbles. Strayed examines the aftermath of this death from the viewpoint of each of those she left behind as they struggle to redefine themselves and their direction without her. Anyone who has lost someone who is c...more
Christine
I learned about opening up while reading this novel. About how to write pain. Cheryl Strayed does a tremendous job capturing grief, a topic that can easily be expressed in a clichéd manner.

She captures the essence of grief in this novel. And the voice! I’d stay hundreds of pages with her.
Kate
This was a heavy read, but beautifully written with exceptional character development. If you can handle some tears, it's worth it.
Jessica
What a gorgeous book. My delight in reading books by Cheryl Strayed is now 3-3.
Christy
I’ve read and been incredibly impressed with this author’s essays and other work and then found her debut novel.

After fleeing a bad marriage, Theresa moves her two children as far away as possible, finds love, her true self and then at way to young, she gets cancer and dies soon after.

This is a story of love and grief and how we deal with pain, numbing it and then struggling to move through it with grace and compassion. It affected me on a profound level.

The characters are real, human, and or...more
Sumi
I read Torch immediately after reading Wild, frankly because I was hungry for more of Strayed's writing. I wonder how Torch would read if I hadn't read Wild first, because Torch is definitely a fictional memoir even though I am not sure if Strayed would necessarily say that. (Anyone notice that she says that her brother, unlike the character, was never arrested for dealing meth? That wouldn't rule out the possibility of him having used or dealt meth though, right? ;) Either way, I think knowing...more
Brittany
Nov 03, 2009 Brittany rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who've lost a loved one
Recommended to Brittany by: Katie Guthmiller
Shelves: given, 2009-reads, romance
Cheryl Strayed writes poignantly classical. Upon immediate reading, you clearly can see that she is not the typical run-of-the-mill modern writer. It was most unfortunate when my highly favorable stance on her writing abilities was shot down time and again when she decided to write so crudely about sex. It wasn't crude in the way a man in a bar might talk about it, but the huge contrast between her clear talent to write and inability to write about sex without swearing really hurt my opinion of...more
Author Groupie
Having recently inhaled Cheryl Strayed's Wild, I was then eager to read her first novel, Torch. With similar life experiences as the female protagonist Claire- a parent who suffers a gruesome death at the hands of cancer, various familial dysfunction, and a previous longing for the consummate romantic relationship- I bookmarked passage after passage which seemed to have come from my own thought processes during my near-identical life experiences:

Years passed. . . Slowly, stingingly, she forgave...more
Turi
When I received Torch, I had no idea it would become one of my new favorite books. I'd heard a lot of buzz about Strayed's Wild, which I haven't yet read, but didn't realize what a talented fiction writer she is. I was particularly intrigued by the fact that this is a debut novel, and that the story is the story that Strayed felt she just had to write. Perhaps because of its semi-autobiographical nature, Strayed was able to perfectly illustrate the a family struggling with grief. The characters...more
Erin
This is one of those books that isn't about anything really. A woman gets cancer, she dies, her family navigates the aftermath. There's no suspense, no mystery to solve, no secret revealed by her mourning relatives. There is just day to day life and survival after sudden, horrible death strikes a family. In the hands of a lesser writer this would be trite or treacly. In Strayed's hands, this novel is luminous and deeply felt. I felt it deeply, and all of her characters were so deep, and did such...more
sarah gilbert
'Torch' is a beautiful book that describes the process of losing a mother, a wife, a friend in such luminous detail that you cannot help rethinking your relationship with the people in your life, you cannot help understanding everyone's failings more fully. Cheryl Strayed develops her characters with such complete and unconditional love that it is no surprise to learn the novel is based on events in her own life; it is, however, a surprise to learn how much compassion you have for these characte...more
Amy
I realize that some people in this world - like the characters of this book (and its author, I've learned since finishing it) - turn to sex in times of grief, pain, and loss. Since I'm not one of those people, I felt a bit of a disconnect with the characters after several random sexual encounters in the wake of the loss of their mother.

Strayed is an amazing essayist, but it just didn't translate in the novel genre - or not as strongly as I'd hoped. She definitely writes open-heartedly, baring a...more
David
I really like how Strayed is able to deliver sentiment without excessive sentimentality. The book deals with a lot of heavily charged issues, but Strayed seems to turn away from opportunities to exploit these heavily charged issues and instead let the story tell itself, just as it it. She builds the characters well, each being believably unique and still related in the force that drives the book forward. Especially considering the personal connection to the story and how that could actually get...more
Jo Waz
This story has a lot of texture and depth. The characters are believable to the point that I became angry with them for the way they treated each other and started actively talking to the book. The theme really hit home because I just lost my friend to cancer, and she was a mom to two young adults about the same age as the kids in this story. I felt drawn into these lives, this community, this climate. It was one of those truly good books that makes me feel like I've traveled somewhere and becom...more
Sonya
Tender coming-of-age, coming-to-terms novel about a mother's death and the ripples it sends to her husband and children. Would have bumped this to a 3.5; I think it could have been slightly shorter. The writing is beautiful and I cared about the characters, wanting to see the book through to the end.
Darinda
I should have guessed, after having read her memoir, that this book would be full of out of wedlock sex, with a bit more detail than I'm comfortable reading. I definitely would NOT recommend this book to my teenage nieces. I find myself wondering if all these people would be happier if they'd pursue other means of looking for fulfillment. I've stuck with the book, however because the writing is pretty good. The story is compelling, especially through the parts leading up to the death of their mo...more
Lindsay
I'm a bit disappointed in Cheryl Strayed. Maybe I've just over saturated myself in her story. This "novel" is two hairs away from being a memoir. The names were changed, but most everything else was her personal story. I was hoping for something a bit more imaginative.
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How death of loved ones changes family dynamics 1 14 Mar 21, 2007 02:47PM  
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Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, Wild, will be published by Knopf in March 2012. It will also be published in Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Italy. Her novel, Torch (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) was a finalist for the Great Lakes Book Award and was selected by The Oregonian as one of the top ten books of the year by writers from the Pacific Northwest. Strayed’s writing has appeared i...more
More about Cheryl Strayed...
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York The Best American Essays 2013 Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: Work from 1970 to the Present

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“It's a long life, sweetheart, and time heals all wounds.” 16 likes
“He was the most ordinary man in all the world, and yet in her memory he'd become luminous, like the prince in a fairy tale.” 15 likes
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