Cover image for After the fire, a still small voice
After the fire, a still small voice
Wyld, Evie.
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Pantheon Books, [2009]

Physical Description:
296 pages ; 22 cm
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Format :


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FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library
FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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Set in the haunting landscape of eastern Australia, this is a stunningly accomplished debut novel about the inescapable past: the ineffable ties of family, the wars fought by fathers and sons, and what goes unsaid. After the departure of the woman he loves, Frank drives out to a shack by the ocean that he had last visited as a teenager. There, among the sugarcane and sand dunes, he struggles to rebuild his life. Forty years earlier, Leon is growing up in Sydney, turning out treacle tarts at his parents' bakery and flirting with one of the local girls. But when he's drafted to serve in Vietnam, he finds himself suddenly confronting the same experiences that haunt his war-veteran father. As these two stories weave around each other--each narrated in a voice as tender as it is fierce--we learn what binds Frank and Leon together, and what may end up keeping them apart.

Author Notes

Evie Wyld won the 2014 Barnes and Noble Discover Award for her title All the Birds, Singing. This is a Great New Writers Award in the category of fiction. Wyld will receive US$10,000 and a year's worth of marketing and merchandising support for her book from B&N. The awards are part of B&N's Discover.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Frank's rage has driven his lover away and propelled him out of Sydney and into his grandparents' long-abandoned cabin on the wild coast. Frank is tentatively befriended by his neighbors, including their strange little girl, but mostly he broods alone by the shark-patrolled sea. Enigmatically interleaved with Frank's rueful and haunted days and nights is the story of Leon, the misfit son of European Jews who find refuge in Australia, where they run a cake shop. Leon's fragile father enlists to fight in the Korean War and returns utterly shattered. Leon takes over the shop, his parents disappear, and he is drafted and sent to Vietnam. Wyld, one of Granta's New Voices of 2008, writes with abrading intensity and potent lyricism about the stunning amorality of the natural world and the brutishness and suffering of humankind, from domestic violence to war. Ravishingly atmospheric and wisely compassionate, this somber, ambitious first novel attempts to net more sorrows, secrets, and horrors than it can hold, but there's no doubt that Wyld is a writer of immense abilities and depth.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2009 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

One of Granta's New Voices of 2008, debut novelist Wyld chronicles the stories of two Australian men and the shards of trauma that have made up both lives. Frank and Leon live parallel lives: the narratives begin with young Leon's father heading to the Korean War, and, 40 years later, with an adult Frank holing up in a decrepit beachfront shack. Leon's father returns from Korea badly damaged, having been in a prison camp, and soon runs away, with Leon's mother giving chase. Later Leon is drafted and faces in Vietnam horrors similar to those that traumatized his father. Meanwhile, in the present day, Frank is starting over after his girlfriend leaves him. Making do in the family shack, he befriends his neighbors and threads together a passable existence in spite of remembered tragedies, anger at his shadowy father and a spate of local children gone missing. The two narrative threads stay separate until the final pages, and, refreshingly, their connection isn't overplayed. At times startling, Wyld's book is ruminative and dramatic, with deep reserves of empathy colored by masculine rage and repression. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

First novelist Wyld offers the moving tale of a man's search for inner peace and escape from everything that haunts him. The interesting twist is that this is really the story of two men-father and son-fighting the same inner turmoil in different time periods. Frank leaves the city for the oceanside shack in eastern Australia once owned by his grandparents. Forever changed by his experiences in Vietnam, Leon is on a journey of his own. In an alternating narrative, the reader sees how Leon's son Frank becomes more like him and yet further apart, so that they are unable to reconcile. Leon, once an aggressive man completely taken over by the horrors he has experienced, eventually becomes a gentle Bible follower, while Frank starts out as an often-neglected boy but becomes a man who beats up his girlfriend. Verdict With mental tension, war, missing children, and the daily struggles encountered in the Australian bush, there is plenty to keep the reader engrossed. A definite page- turner that will appeal to those seeking a good escapist read.-Leann Restaino, Girard, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The sun turned the narrow dirt track to dust. It rose like an orange tide from the wheels of the truck and blew in through the window to settle in Frank Collard's arm hair. He remembered the place feeling more tropical, the soil thicker and wetter. The sugar cane on either side of the track was thin and reedy, wild with a brown husk and sick-looking green tops. The same old cane that hadn't been harvested in twenty years swayed like a green sea. Blue gums and box trees hepped out of it, not bothered with the dieback. Once it would all have been hardwood. In the time his grandparents had lived out here, just the two of them, before the new highway, maybe then this place was a shack in the woods. The clearing was smaller than he remembered, like the cane had slunk closer to the pale wooden box hut. The banana tree stooped low over a corrugated roof. He turned off the engine and sagged in his seat for a moment taking it in. There was a tweak at the back of his neck and when he slapped it his palm came away bloody. 'Home again home again diggidy dig.' He could have driven here without thinking. He could have turned the radio up loud and listened to the memorial service at Australia Zoo. They were calling them revenge killings, the stingrays found mutilated up and down Queensland beaches. He could have let his hands steer him to Mulaburry, those same roads he'd hitched along as a kid, sun-scarred and spotty, scrawny as a feral dog without the bulky calves and wide hands he had now. But never mind that, he'd still pulled over on to the slip road and smoothed out the map and read aloud the places, and he still sent his eyes over and over the landmarks, searching for the turn-offs he knew were not written down. The tension in his arms had got so strong he wanted to bust a fist through the windscreen but instead, as a road train roared by and rocked the Ute in its wake, he'd clutched the wheel, crumpling the map as he did it, feeling small tears made by his fingertips. He had gripped the wheel hard so that it burnt, and he pushed like it might relieve the feeling in his arms. But it didn't help and then he was outside, banging his fists on the bonnet for all that he was worth, his nose prickling, his throat closed up, the bloody feel of some bastard terrible thing swimming inside him. And when he was done and spent, he had climbed back into the truck and refolded the buggered map, and when he couldn't make it fit together he'd laughed softly and started the engine. The air outside was thick with insect noise, heavy with heat, and the old gums groaned. The padlock on the door was gone and the idea that some other bastard might have claimed the place as his own nearly made him turn round and shoo all the way back to Canberra. The whole thing was suddenly hare-brained. Tearing through drawers at home trying to find some sort of clue as to what he was supposed to be doing, he'd found an envelope with a picture of his mum in, taken on one summer holiday at the shack. There she was, hanging up a sheet in the sun, the same wide teeth as him, the same sort of boneless nose. Different hair, though - hers a blonde animal that moved in the wind. He was like his father, wiry, black, not from these parts. By her shoulder was the window and inside you could just make out a jam jar with a flower in it. It was like being smacked on the arse by God. Couldn't have been more than a month after she was hanging up that sheet that they'd been driving in his dad's old brown Holden when a truck hadn't stopped at the intersection. When he woke up there was no more mum and no more old brown Holden. It wasn't difficult getting out of the rental agreement. He'd been late and short in the last three months since Lucy left. A week from then and he was on the road, two suitcases of clothes, the rest of everything in boxes Excerpted from After the Fire, a Still Small Voice: A Novel by Evie Wyld All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.