Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Music for Torching” as Want to Read:
Music for Torching
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Music for Torching

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  3,307 Ratings  ·  346 Reviews
As A.M. Homes's incendiary novel unfolds, the Kodacolor hues of the good life become nearly hallucinogenic.Laying bare th foundations of a marriage, flash frozen in the anxious entropy of a suburban subdivision, Paul and Elaine spin the quit terors of family life into a fantastical frenzy that careens out of control. From a strange and hilarious encounter with a Stepford W ...more
ebook, 368 pages
Published May 29th 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 1999)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Music for Torching, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Music for Torching

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
My second shot with A.M. Homes' brand of familial dysfunction was much better than my first (the decidedly one-note short story collection Things You Should Know). This one, a particulary more ferocious novel Music for Torching is, at its finer moments, as good as anything written by a few of her East Coast-based Pulitzer-winning kings of dysfunction fiction predecessors (John Updike and John Cheever immediately come to mind), though refreshingly with a female-centric perspective. While I gene ...more
Makenzie Schultz
I'm really torn in my opinion of this book. As more time goes by since I've finished it, as I think about it more, I like it better than I did when I had first finished it. When I first finished this book I was absolutely shocked by the outcome, I put the book down and was incredibly confused, and really upset. But I knew that I didn't dislike the book, I hadn't been able to put it down. A.M. Homes' style of writing is mesmerizing, and the characters are all just so terrible and so lifelike in t ...more
Aug 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those wary of the "American Dream"

Delightfully devastating. With this book, A.M. Homes paints a haunting picture of suburbia. The main characters, Paul and Elaine, have managed to keep up with the Joneses in their seemingly perfect suburban town, but their lovely house, friendly neighbors and two boys have left them with a life filled with boredom and despair. They want to make things good again in their lives, yet are caught in a shame spiral that begins with a failed attempt to burn down their house and ends with a hostage sit
Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Few writers are as incisive and savagely funny as Homes when it comes to dissecting that dysfunctional beast that is family. I just love her.

Η τύπισσα πρέπει να μεταφραστεί στα ελληνικά ΧΤΕΣ. Είναι απόλαυση σκέτη.
Sarah Smith
May 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
OH MY GOD is exactly what I said to my empty living room when I finished reading this novel by A.M. Homes. After Revolutionary Road and Little Children this is the third successive novel i've read dealing with suburban life in America. Paul and Elaine this time are the unhappy couple and a little bit crazy, certainly depressed, completely selfish, mostly unlikeable and somehow and i've no idea how but Homes makes you care about these two strangely believable characters. The story starts when the ...more
Sep 17, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was very difficult for me to assign a rating to this book.

On one hand - it is very well written. That is usually enough to earn 4 stars from me. I do love a well-turned phrase.

On the other hand - it was very difficult to read. The characters - straight across the board - are very unlikeable. It was hard for me to care about what happened to them. To make matters worse, every now and then I would see a little glimpse of myself or of other people I love. Never enough to make me think that I - o
Apr 24, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm only saying this was 'okay' because the book was well written and there were the odd amusing moments. I didn't enjoy the story; it was basically a series of "poor me" moments that culminated in an event that I thought was awful and unnecessary. I didn't enjoy the characters, again because they were all so pre-occupied with feeling sorry for themselves, despite their largely cushy lives. The characters are awful to themselves and to each other.

I realise that this is the point of the book - t
Apr 16, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Just started. Not sure if it's great literature or total crap.

Update. Total crap CONFIRMED.

This book is desperate to be Delillo's White Noise, but it fails with such misery that I'm surprised I haven't gouged out my eyes and accidently had lesibian intercourse. Not necessarily in that order.

Take my advise and read White Noise if you are looking for modern Americana.
Nov 14, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't in good conscience give this fewer than three stars, because it held my attention, was at times strikingly funny and/or insightful, and was a definite show of talent - but so many times I wanted to throw it across the room and/or give it one star, so, I am settling for three with misgivings.

Let's start by saying that I am a realist. I like my fiction as unfictiony as possible. What I can't handle is fiction via fun house mirrors, ie, scenarios and people so outlandish they cannot be real
Nico Blackheart
Apr 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw this book on a recommendation list and figured I would give it a try since I like quirky dark humor in the spirit of Running With Scissors. Homes' style is dry, witty, and leaves nothing to the imagination. Where most other authors in this genre of starkly depressing humor use flowery language to skirt around the issues presented, Homes uses very simple English to get her points across, and most of the time it makes for a refreshingly human read with minimal pretense. Despite the fact that ...more
Aug 24, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I hated this book and everyone in it. If it wasn't for a class I wouldn't have finished it. When I was done reading it I literally threw it at the wall. I will never be able to hurt that book the way it hurt me.
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-america
This is my first book of 2017 and I can't imagine anything that follows it will be quite the same.
This is the story of Paul and Elaine. They are profoundly and irreparably unhappy with just about every facet of their lives. Early in the story they are BBQing in their backyard yard when they decide to spray their house with lighter fluid, tip the grill over, and torch their house. They have no reason or overriding goal other than simple and complete nihilism.
That their house doesn't actually b
Apr 30, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been rewatching the Sopranos from the start. Like the Sopranos, this is a study of selfish kids of baby boomers who have themselves had kids who are now caught in the maelstrom of their indulgent selfishness. AM Homes first novel, Jack, is dark but hopeful, as are her last two, May We Be Forgiven and This Book Will Save Your Life. But there's no hope in this book. These are people who have everything they need and do most of what they want and don't enjoy it and don't know what to do with ...more
May 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay, I was cleaning out my bookcases and this book was shelved as though it had been read. I read the synopsis and had no memory of this book. I started reading the opening pages, sure it would come back to me. Fifty pages in, I'm totally hooked and very sure that I had not ever actually read it. That was at maybe 5-something pm. I just finished it in one marathon read and am blown away and ready to order everything else she's written. To recount the plot makes it sound like every late 20th cen ...more
Mike Polizzi
(2.5) Today's suburban dweller is a different type of beast. One can read Homes' account of the Weiss family and find the heartbreaks and frustrations rendered by Cheever, Updike and Yates ghosted over with a dash of Delillo. The characters totter on the edge of chaos. An apt portrait of the thrill seeking, self gratifying set. Written in clean and crisp sentences with episodic momentum, the novel has the feeling of a vaguely entertaining TV show: distanced, cool, impeccable. No place for traged ...more
Dec 13, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
One of the worst books I've ever read. If a book could be written in a minor key, this would be the result. This could be beautiful, but there's no character development, the editing is disappointing with inconsistent details all over the place, and the ending? The ending is ridiculous - it's as if the author came up against deadline and needed to end it. I wish I would have bailed on this book in the first chapter, like I'd originally wanted.

Oct 08, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I had to force myself to finish this almost plot-less book. There is no clear sense of time- for all those affairs and drama to happen in the span of one week, I mean really?! Everything was just so unexpected and crazy that eventually crazy became normal.

And it's disturbing on so many levels, though I'm sure it somewhat reflects the problems of suburban Americans and the flaws of the American Dream.

The only character that I genuinely cared for is the one that Homes killed.
Aug 19, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three thoughts:
1. How do these people have so much sex?
2. The feeling of ennui, and floating through your life--well, I only wish AM Homes could have given a way of fixing it, instead of just capturing it so well.
3. *Do Not Read* if you are thinking about pursuing the stereotypical suburban lifestyle...and have an inkling of a reservation about it.
Katie Mansfield
May 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt, wtf-ending
I'm speechless. The ending... WHAT?! I loved the book almost the entire way through. A.M. Homes has a writing style I really appreciate and enjoy. But the ending! How could she do that? I can't decide if I want to cry or burn my book in the Weiss Family barbeque.
William Dale
Sep 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book holds up! Love it!
After being rather disappointed with May We Be Forgiven, I actually enjoyed Music for Torching, although I wasn't overjoyed with it. Again, I can tell that Homes really, really likes Don DeLillo, and also makes several trips into Richard Yates country. After all, it starts with two sudden acts of random violence in a posh New York suburb, and goes on ad nauseam through extramarital affairs, accidental lesbianism, insurance fraud, and so forth. Is it at the caliber of Yates or Cheever or Updike w ...more
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shocking, entertaining, disturbing. About a 4.1. I'd consider a higher rating, except that I did feel "manipulated" by the author. Which of course one always is ... but one doesn't wish to FEEL that way.
Robin Umbley
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 09, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Sadly, this book was gravely under-whelming. I expected more from the brilliant mind that produced The End Of Alice. Then again, maybe one cannot live up to such a book?

This was like American Beauty (the movie) on crack. Everything was haphazard, random, dysfunctional - are people really like this? The ending was completely unexpected, although, when I think about it... the only ending I could really see was some type of destruction.

What was the point of this book? What did I come away with? An
Polly James
I have NO idea what rating to give this book. On the one hand, it's beautifully written, in A M Homes' characteristically-introspective tone, (and with her trademark flashes of black humour) but on the other, it's probably the most depressing book I've ever read – and so I hated it.

I've loved most of A M Homes' other books, especially "May We Be Forgiven" and "This Book Will Save Your Life", but while both the latter and "Music for Torching" could be said to carry the same overall message about
Jun 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cashman by: Anne
In Thoreau's day, people led lives of quiet desperation. There is nothing quiet here.

(p. 93)
"Should I call what's-her-name?" Elaine turns to Sammy. "What's Nate's mother's name?"
"Mom?" Sammy says.
Daniel hits him. "Butt plug."
"Help me, what's her name?" Elaine asks Paul.

Nope, nothing quiet here.

(p. 189) Paul notices that the color of her eye shadow is Fiction, her lipstick is called Sheer Fraud.

(p. 195) "'If nothing else, it seems like the one thing we do well—we fight and we c**k. That's how we
Russell George
Russell is writing this review. He has eaten tuna, which he marinated using too much ginger, and is wondering why the dentist mumbled at him today. OK, so the dentist was wearing a mask, but it was rude. It cost £50, which made it ruder. He is thinking about the dentist, and the £50 he exchanged for a more thorough than usual teeth cleaning.

This is how A. M. Homes writes, an urgent first person prose that seeks, and at times succeeds, in making a suburban landscape seem dramatically vivid. Certa
Jan 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A.M. Homes writes from what I call a Suburban Surrealist bent. That is, what could sort-of, possibly happen in real life, but usually doesn't, and is weird, and wacky, and well, fascinating.

A.M. Homes is fabulous at creating a doll's house view of a nuclear family, and then dissecting the family from the inside out -- thoughts, feelings, and processes. Music for Torching is a bird's eye view of the couple, Paul and Elaine who smoke crack in their living room out of boredom. This couple was seen
I read this book because I have friends who recommend it. Unfortunately, I can't share their enthusiasm. Beside the characters seeming no more than paper charactures, and all-too trendy ones at that, I could find no purpose to making art of their lives. It's not as if the ennui and hypocrisy of the suburban middleclass hasn't been written about before. If this book appeared in the 1960s, I could understand all the accolades it's received. (Who can forget Charles Webb's searing portrayal of the p ...more
Sep 24, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
Wow. Nothing good in this book. Not a single uplifting moment, not a single likeable character, just angst, discontent, boredom and horror. I feel like this book has been done in many different versions through the years, and this was a crasser way of portraying the line from The Civil Wars, "I don't love you, but I always will." It's a man and wife, bored with themselves, bored with each other, bored with life and all the horrible ways they try to deal with it. I was okay with the book until th ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
ending 1 17 Nov 15, 2013 08:39AM  
  • We Don't Live Here Anymore
  • Strong Motion
  • The Male Cross-Dresser Support Group
  • Falling in Place
  • Stigmata: Escaping Texts
  • The Sexual Outlaw: A Documentary
  • The Biographer's Tale
  • Afgang (Het Bureau #6)
  • Closer
  • The Virgin of Flames
  • Tumble Home: A Novella and Short Stories
  • Out of the Girls' Room and Into the Night: Stories
  • Jesus Saves
  • Nude Men
  • Assuming a Body: Transgender and Rhetorics of Materiality
  • Tree of Smoke
  • Oh Pure and Radiant Heart
  • American Studies
A.M. Homes (first name Amy) is the author of the novels, This Book Will Save Your Life, Music For Torching, The End of Alice, In a Country of Mothers, and Jack, as well as the short-story collections, Things You Should Know and The Safety of Objects, the travel memoir, Los Angeles: People, Places and The Castle on the Hill, and the artist's book Appendix A: An Elaboration on the Novel the End of A ...more
More about A.M. Homes

Fiction Deals

  • Mercy Among the Children
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Darkness There: Selected Tales by Edgar Allan Poe [Kindle in Motion]
    $1.99 $0.99
  • An Empty Cup
    $3.99 $1.99
  • I Like You Just Fine When You're Not Around
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Abby's Journey
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Underground River
    $12.99 $2.99
  • The Word Game
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Fraulein M.
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Sister of Mine
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Bury What We Cannot Take
    $5.99 $2.99
  • Chomp
    $6.99 $1.99
  • Searching for Grace Kelly
    $15.99 $1.99
  • Bricking It
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Fifth of March: A Story of the Boston Massacre (Great Episodes)
    $8.99 $2.99
  • Starfish
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Thunder and Rain
    $9.99 $2.99
  • All Grown Up
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Light of Hidden Flowers
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Olive's Ocean
    $6.99 $1.99
  • Ecstasy
    $13.99 $1.99
  • The Elephant Keeper's Daughter
    $5.99 $2.99
  • The Virtues of Oxygen
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Home to Harmony (Harmony #1)
    $11.14 $1.99
  • Dog Crazy
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Towers of Tuscany
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Noticer: Sometimes, all a person needs is a little perspective
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Who We Were Before
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Reluctant Midwife (Hope River, #2)
    $10.49 $1.99
  • Sin No More (Reverend Curtis Black)
    $10.39 $1.99
  • The List
    $7.99 $2.99
  • Lost & Found
    $5.74 $1.99
  • A Watershed Year
    $3.99 $0.99
  • Savage
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Designer
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Novice: A Story of True Love
    $10.74 $1.99
  • Go Away Home
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Leaving of Things
    $4.49 $1.99
  • Train I Ride
    $6.99 $1.99
  • We'll Always Have Paris: Stories
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Hidden Flower
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Greyhound
    $3.99 $0.99
  • The Heart Mender: A Story of Second Chances
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Lisette's List
    $11.99 $1.99
  • This Burns My Heart
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Journeys of Socrates
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Annie on My Mind
    $9.99 $1.20
  • An Absent Mind
    $4.49 $1.99
  • The Book of Ruth
    $18.99 $1.99
  • Smoke
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Sisterhood of Blackberry Corner
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Covenant
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Digging In
    $5.99 $2.99
  • The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
    $11.99 $12.99
  • The Traveling Vampire Show
    $3.99 $0.99
  • The Long Way Home
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Going Home
    $3.99 $1.99
  • In Between Days
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Girl in the Glass
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Super Sad True Love Story
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Prayers and Lies
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Go the F**k to Sleep
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Fat Chance
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Just a Couple of Days
    $17.99 $1.99
  • The Boleyn Inheritance (The Tudor Court, #3)
    $12.99 $2.99
  • The Girls from Corona del Mar
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Daughter of Union County
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Fighting Ground
    $6.49 $1.99
  • Delicious!
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Embers
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Sugar Men
    $3.99 $1.99
  • You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down: Stories
    $17.99 $1.99
  • The Last Storyteller: A Novel Of Ireland
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Vengeance Road
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Ungifted
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Julie of the Wolves
    $6.99 $1.99
  • Mrs. Saint and the Defectives
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Stiltsville: A Novel
    $10.99 $1.99
  • To the Bright Edge of the World
    $11.99 $2.99
  • The Patriots
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Flicker of Old Dreams
    $9.99 $1.99
  • All the Good Parts
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Food of Love
    $3.99 $1.99
  • So Long, See You Tomorrow
    $11.99 $2.99
  • A Scattered Life
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Every Ugly Word
    $3.99 $1.99
  • A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Desert God (Ancient Egypt, #5)
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy (Bloody Jack, #1)
    $8.99 $2.99
  • The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds (Malayan #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • An Amish Buggy Ride
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Old Yeller
    $6.99 $1.99
  • The Secret Healer (The Secret Healer #1)
    $3.49 $0.99
  • Elizabeth Street
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Gates of Rome (Emperor, #1)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Unkillable Kitty O'Kane
    $4.99 $1.99
  • It Is Well
    $4.99 $1.99
  • A Sinful Calling (Reverend Curtis Black #13)
    $9.99 $2.99
  • On a Cold Dark Sea
    $4.99 $1.99
  • My Lady Viper (Tales from the Tudor Court #1)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Kings of Broken Things
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Edward Adrift
    $4.49 $1.99
  • The Restaurant Critic's Wife
    $3.99 $1.99
“What does ‘stuck’ mean?” “It means I should make some big decision, I should do some enormous thing. And I can’t do anything. I can’t stand my life, and I can’t change it.” “Maybe it’s not an enormous thing,” he says. “Maybe you have to do one small thing and then another small thing.” 7 likes
“You are your own beginning. Every day, every hour, every minute, you start again. There is no point wishing you were someone else, you are who you are—start there.” 3 likes
More quotes…