Looking for love in all the right places? Not Alicia Wentworth, the enchantingly frisky teenaged heiress at the heart of Rena Diane Walmsley’s debut memoir-as-novel. Alicia escapes from her privileged, sheltered life at an elite Concord, Massachusetts boarding school and pulls a “visiting room switch” to break in to a nearby state prison so she can rendezvous with Teddy Hawk, an exquisitely chiseled 21-year-old Native American convict for whom she has fallen hard while volunteering in a creative writing class for inmates. But Alicia is left alone and vulnerable when Teddy is hauled off to solitary, and she must reach deep within herself to concoct a gritty and initially degrading scheme to blackmail the prison system into freeing them both.

This deliciously literate debut is framed by Alicia’s present-day perspective as “a respectable thirty-something Unitarian minister” in a suburb west of Boston: while she is cognizant of the scars she wears from her early experiences, she is also engaged by a sense of something sacred therein that informs her daily life years later.

Not all coming-of-age novels are alike, and not every thirty-something narrator is able to cast an unflinching eye on the choices she made and the chances she took at the cusp of adulthood. But Walmsley’s unique novel-as-memoir never blinks, and her stunning sexual description breaks new narrative ground on age-old but ever-engaging terrain. Women and men alike will be enchanted and enriched by their journeys through her ultimately cautionary web of words.

About the Author

Rena Diane Walmsley lives with her family in Massachusetts, the state that she represented in the Miss America pageant when she was nineteen. Girl on Fire is her first novel.

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