Julie Christine's Reviews > Baby's on Fire

Baby's on Fire by Liz Prato
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it was amazing
bookshelves: shorts, best-of-2016, read-2016

I reckon many reading this review are not familiar with writer Liz Prato or this slim volume of twelve stories, her debut collection. I'm doing what I can here, and in the real world, to change that. Fortunately I live in the literary Utopia that is the Pacific Northwest, where astonishingly talented writers are nearly as numerous as coffee shops and the community lifts up, supports and loves its own. Liz is a literary lion here, but you should know her, you should read her work.

These are raw stories told with clear-eyed intensity by female protagonists (save one), many of whom are in motion, on planes, in cars, in flux, running from or toward themselves, on the cusp of emotional upheaval.

The title story is a favorite. Jude, a recent college graduate who can't even get her "ass hired at Starbucks" mails her possessions home to Portland from Colorado and follows them meekly, resigned to living in her mother's basement until she can figure out a way through her failure. What follows is a deliciously subtle and sad confirmation of the adage, "You can't go home again."

The naturalness that pervades the stories' dialogue also translates into a deep sensuality within the characters. I don't know when I've been more aware of characters' skin, the feel of their bones, their breath. In the heartbreaking and lovely Riding the Shore Deb caresses her lover's nearly-hairless skull while Ginny leans over the toilet, vomiting up the wretchedness of her cancer. I ran my hand over the landscape of Ginny's skull, over hills and rivers and flat sand beaches.

In the ironic and coyly bitter Astronomical Objects, Prato uses a room's objects to frame the passion between two lovers ...(the) bed is a heavenly body, but for us it has no wings. Those heavy sheets and blankets and duvet would keep us tamped flat. We sit and we stand and we twist and we bend. In a chair, over a table on the floor. The bed is a prop, a place to find balance, but we rarely lie flat. Later, these lovers realize their partners are also having an affair. "Is it because—?"
No," he says. "They did it all on their own."


Prato's characters are waging intimate battles, like most of us, which is what makes this collection so revelatory and relatable. The characters and their problems are wincingly familiar because most of us face them every day, when we look in the mirror or into our hearts.

These stories are gems, but not polished and gleaming—though Prato's writing is, with a clarity and crispness as refreshing and energizing as a mountain stream—no, they are raw and uncut, far more interesting for their ambiguous endings and untidy characters.

Highly recommended.
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Reading Progress

August 5, 2015 – Shelved
August 5, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
February 3, 2016 – Started Reading
February 3, 2016 – Shelved as: shorts
February 4, 2016 – Shelved as: best-of-2016
February 4, 2016 – Shelved as: read-2016
February 4, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)

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message 1: by Elyse (new) - added it

Elyse Walters These stories sound good!!!


Julie Christine Elyse wrote: "These stories sound good!!!" Elyse, they are excellent! xoxo


Lisa I just requested it from my library. Sounds amazing.

Also, I am relieved for this spelling of Baby's. :o ;)


message 4: by Debbie (new) - added it

Debbie Great review, as always, Julie. Aren't we lucky to live in the Pacific Northwest?! Yum! These stories sound great. Must check out.


Julie Christine Lisa wrote: "I just requested it from my library. Sounds amazing.

Also, I am relieved for this spelling of Baby's. :o ;)"


LOL! It's a Brian Eno song... I think you'll like these. PDX has the most awesome writers...


Julie Christine Debbie wrote: "Great review, as always, Julie. Aren't we lucky to live in the Pacific Northwest?! Yum! These stories sound great. Must check out."

Seriously. It's ridiculous. We're so fortunate!! xoxo


message 7: by Debbie (new) - added it

Debbie It's not on Kindle, but the paperback was cheap, so I just ordered it. I like to have little paperback short story collections :)


Julie Christine Debbie wrote: "It's not on Kindle, but the paperback was cheap, so I just ordered it. I like to have little paperback short story collections :)" I had to do an ILL and the book came from Oregon- small press distribution is so frustrating and women writers and literary fiction and all these things that make crashingly talented writers overlooked. THANK YOU for buying this book!


Lisa That first story was also my favorite. I was sad when it ended and I was left with so many questions.


Julie Christine Lisa wrote: "That first story was also my favorite. I was sad when it ended and I was left with so many questions."

So glad you loved this. I have a writer crush on her, for sure.


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