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The Secrets of a Fire King: Stories
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The Secrets of a Fire King: Stories

3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  1,404 ratings  ·  255 reviews
The characters in these stories are often separated from the mainstream - a juggler and a trapeze artist, a daughter whose mother is a public evangelist waging a wear against sin, a cleaning woman whose life is inexplicably tied to Marie Curie's. The stories they inhabit transcend the barriers of time to explore the universally driving force of our experience: the magnitud...more
Hardcover, 234 pages
Published December 2nd 2005 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1997)
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Aug 26, 2011 Teresa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: Tara
I can't remember when I first heard that a story should engage the reader in a 'suspension of disbelief,' and I can't remember the last time I read a collection of stories that fits this idea so well -- not because unusual things happen, but because the writing drew me in so fully that the experience of reading it felt dream-like. Each story is a fully-realized world unto itself, a perfect little capsule.

One story nailed so well for me how it felt to be a teenager in the 70's that I wasn't surpr...more
This is one of those special surprises I found in a remainder bin, of all places. This will go down as another "best of" story collection for me. I went and looked at other reviews and was shocked at the low ratings it got. I can only imagine that the readers who read her more popular fiction in The Memory Keeper's Daughter were lost within her more literary stories. I did not read MKD, so can't comment, but that's the only reason that can account for the angry one stars.

Edwards is extremely ade...more
I wanted to like this book. But I really didn't. I picked it up because I had read The Memory Keeper's Daughter and wanted to read something else by the same author. The first few stories in the collection were okay, not great, but then I started to notice a pattern in the author's writing: the men were all villains and the women were all victims, which is not a flattering portrayal for either sex. I read about half of the stories and then finally gave up.
There are books that have substance, and there are books that are pure style. Not that there's anything wrong with style: see this short piece about Joyce and the "New-Agey claptrap" Paulo Coelho churns out.

But, it is exceedingly difficult to write a readable book that is pure style with, at the heart of it, very little substance. Edwards tries, and the result is a collection of short stories (fictional vignettes really) that falls far short of her debut novel, The Memory Keeper's daughter. The...more
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Bhargavi Balachandran
A beautifully written book! Kim is a master at weaving strange ,unsettling tales alive with emotions.Most of the protagonists are women. The first few stories seemed similar, with common themes of death, redemption and loneliness. But as I read on , I felt that that stories kept getting better and better. A thin chord of melancholy runs through the stories ,but Kim's prowess with words helps one brush away the sadness in the stories and plough right on. I haven't read a better collection of stor...more
Jason (RawBlurb)
I am not one who normally invests time in short stories. It is not that I dislike them, more that I find them unsatisfying. I get involved and dedicated to an idea and find it cut short. This is expected as it is the intent of the medium.

A result of this is that I either avoid them completely, or read them, and feel that my opinion is not a fair reflection of the work. So I rarely write reviews of collections like this.

This stated, Kim Edwards’ collection of shorts ‘The Secrets of a Fire King’ w...more
The Secrets of a Fire King is one of 14 well crafted stories told with brisk assurance,mostly from a first person perspective.Despite a uniformity of length and style and definate thematic similarities, all of the stories describe wildly different and unusual circumstances.Edwards skill is relentless as she catapults the reader into each scenario.Somehow we are immediately immersed in the commonplace of the bizarre situations articulated with such bland confidence that we can hardly challenge th...more
I was excited to get three stories into the book and still be looking forward to what came next. Usually books of short stories start off well and then morph into mediocre disappointments for me. I loved and appreciated every story but one (only because I have a personal hatred for stories about couples who see the significant other cheating and say nothing-I can't even begin to relate to that). My very favorite was "Thirst", which reminds me of The Little Mermaid. I'm not sure if the main chara...more
As with most every short story collection (save Hempel, Cheever, Munro, and Robison) waffled about how many stars to give this. Some of the stories are utterly superb (and so worthy of five stars), and a few others are merely good (three, maybe), so we'll average 'em.

There's a thoroughness to the evocation of women and of the world that I admire enormously and that times tried my patience (I like swifter voices). Really notable, though, for the wide range of these stories, and for their insiste...more
Hershey Go
i was quite wary of picking this book up. but later i realized that it was worth it. The stories inside are short but full of meaning. THey are written beautifully and each story doesn't really have an ending--it's up to you to conclude, or end, with your own imagination. While reading this book I felt like i was apart from reality--such was the beauty of the way it was written. The author, Kim Edwards, knows how keep her reader interested and usually throws endings that makes you wonder on life...more
Melissa Stacy
A fascinating collection of short stories published in 1997. These stories are very different from a lot of award-winning "post-postmodern" contemporary short fiction in that they are all straightforward to read, and all of these stories contain plot. Yes, you heard that correctly-- these short stories have actual PLOTS in them. And they aren't at all difficult to read. (!!!) I was amazed!! These stories are truly a delight!

"A Gleaming in the Darkness" stars Marie Curie, a gorgeous tale. "Balan...more
Beautiful imagery, clean writing, and well crafted plots mark this collection of short stories. However, the writing is at times so clinical and cool that I felt too removed from the characters, and some of the stories left me emotionally unsatisfied. I would recommend it to read once and also as a tool to learn elements of the craft of writing, but it's not a book you could revisit often. The only story that really resonated with me was "The Way It Felt To be Falling"
An Odd1
1 The Great Chain of Being
Narrator Eshlaini, seventh of thirteen "the first girl" p 2. Her father calls all children by other names, her Rohila, for an insane grandmother, so he can reject suitors, keep her home to care for him. In compensation, she asks him to put in writing his gift of this small house and property. She forces him to apologize when he is dying, in his eighties. The property has escalated in value, but she rejects her brothers' attempts get the land back. She calls herself Eshl...more
Joan Winnek
Sep 23, 2011 Joan Winnek rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of short stories
Recommended to Joan by: Teresa
This is one of the best short story collections I have ever read. Many thanks to Teresa for her excellent review.
The Secrets of a Fire King
By Kim Edwards
255pp New York, New York
Penguin Group (USA) inc. $14.00
ISBN: 978-0-14-311230-3

The Secrets of a Fire King is a wonderful collection of short stories portraying the lives of people who you don’t find in New York City today. There are stories about difference, family problems, and relationships. You will find yourself feeling bad for the people who suffer and feeling happy for the people who are finally free of conflict. You will surely find yourself engaged...more
Megan Anderson
This is a book of short stories. Some of them are amazing, some of them not so much. Still worth reading cover to cover.

This was the only book that I got to from the stacks in September (I’m reading through all of our color-coded book stacks one color at a time).

The stories are incredibly varied. The characters range over many cultures, age ranges, and are of both genders. Edwards must have a deep understanding of human nature to make such a diverse character list believable. The stories focus o...more
Min Yee
This book contains of fourteen different stories. Each story contains an eccentric character and most of the stories are very random. Sometimes, I don’t really understand what is the main idea that the author wants to tell to the readers. The stories were written in simple English with complicated plots. Some of the random stories are such as rats, birthday invitation, parachute, gold digging, and garden.

I feel none of the stories are interesting and I don’t understand what is the conclusion of...more
Before The Memory Keepers Daughter skyrocketed up the best-seller list, author Kim Edwards wrote another book, a collection of short stories.

We all know how much I love a good short story collection, and since I adored The Memory Keepers Daughter, I was interested in reading this one. I was even more interested when I spotted the audio at the library.

Before I start with the commentary, I gotta say something about that cover.

It kind of creeps me out, if I do say so myself. It's too ... embryot...more
Sarah Sammis
I think my enjoyment of The Memory Keeper's Daughter was a fluke. I found The Secrets of a Fire King, a collection of short stories by Kim Edwards a chore to read.

The short story collection has fourteen short stories. They are set in very different places and in very different eras. They all focus around a supposedly strong female narrator who must prove herself during impossible situations. With the exception of "Spring, Mountain, Sea" and "A Gleaming in the Darkness" I didn't like the stories,...more
David Grimaud
This is a collection of short stories by the author of the MEMORY KEEPER'S DAUGHTER, a book I have considered reading, but not yet added to my long queue of "books to read." I found THE SECRETS OF A FIRE KING in the bargain audio-bin at Books-A-Million and decided to try it.

There are fourteen stories. Alienation is a common theme, and many of the settings are in, or have ties to, the Asian Pacific. (I believe I read the author lived there once.) Many of the stories are about a female that is tre...more
Last book for 2013. Not really a good book to end the year but I guess beggars can't be choosers. Been slacking off this year. I should've and could've read more.

Anyway some of the stories in here are good. And I can't help to point out how much the stories of Malays are in here. (Typical Malaysian I know). But yeah at some point I was wondering, did the author spend some time in Malaysia? The description of the stories are really close to the heart.

The author is really descriptive, telling th...more
This book is 14 short stories. Now, I'm not one for reading short stories, actually I usually find them disappointing and boring. Not in this case. I really loved this book and I'm really surprised at a number of people who rated this book so low. I cannot understand why, other than that the stories didn't always end on a happy note, actually, most ended that way. While some stories were just average, the majority of them were really good. I found Kim Edwards' writing very intelligent. None of h...more
A beautifully written book that kept my attention in short spurts. True, some of the stories lacked resolution. I don't mind this, however, as the general mood/feeling of each story made me pause and think. The vivid imagery alone is worth picking up this book - it burst with color of various settings and times. I felt like I was reading the fairy tales of my childhood.
Aug 17, 2008 Tanya rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: quiet readers
Shelves: on-my-bookshelf
The stories here are elemental, drawing on themes of loss, exile, grief, marginalization. Edwards has taken the themes she explored in The Memory Keeper's Daughter and used them to create vignettes. There is still room for power here, but I was more caught in the first 2-3 stories than in the remainder. By the time I got to the title story, I was pretty much done. Sure, the themes are compelling; but the same ideas permeate, and the way she ends each story seems too pat, too "I am trying to be...more
This is a book of short stories. I enjoy novels better but decided to give this a try. All stories are different though there are two that kind of intertwined. There is a story about Marie Curie which I enjoyed then a story about a man who used radium as an anti-aging serum. Both stories were interesting.
I struggled my way through this book for over two months. I was only able to read one chapter at a time, which is unusual for me. It's not that the book was boring, more that it was fairly depressing and not at all a cohesive entity. When I checked it out of the library I knew it was a collection of short stories, but the jacket description led me to believe those stories are linked in some way. They aren't. Not that I could see anyway. Other than that each story dealt with a relationship, and w...more
I love this book! It is a collection of short stories by the author of The Memory Keeper's Daughter. I found it on the sale table at Books-A-Million. It looked interesting and I thought it might be a good introduction to Kim Edwards' writing. The first story I read absolutely blew me away. It was beautiful. The next story was just as beautiful and my reaction was the same. This pattern was repeated until I finally brought myself to read the last story. Each story is about a person and a relation...more
This was an interesting read and I didn't realize it was comprised only of short stories until a little ways into it. I felt like they needed to be connected somehow like in Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man. Once I got over that, I was able to enjoy the short stories for what they were.
Marcy Reiz
Not bad but still not as gripping as The Memory Keeper's Daughter. I keep waiting for Kim Edwards to write something just as captivating. Most of these stories were enjoyable but it seems as though Edwards has a fascination with radium--maybe that's just me? I think I liked 'Secrets of a Fire King' best, and I also liked 'Spring, Mountain, Sea' and 'Balance' (I think that's the name of the one with the two gymnasts). All-in-all it was likeable, hard to believe all of these different stories were...more
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Kim Edwards grew up in Skaneateles, New York, in the heart of the Finger Lakes region. The oldest of four children, she graduated from Colgate University and the University of Iowa, where she received an MFA in Fiction and an MA in Linguistics. After completing her graduate work, she went with her husband to Asia, where they spent the next five years teaching, first on the rural east coast of Mala...more
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“I imagine that she flushes, seeing him there, for she is at that age when even the most commonplace boys take on a sense of mystery. And this boy is not ordinary. He is wild and he has strange and fanciful perceptions. [p. 153]” 1 likes
“The year was 1922, and the Curies had transformed plain earth into something rare and unimagined. A secret of the universe has been revealed, and a restless world dreamed of transformation. [p. 205]” 1 likes
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