A Tender for the Fire
The latest novel by Brian Justus, A Tender for the Fire
is the story of Lonnie Lowe, a quiet young man who lost his mother on the day he was born, possesses a strangely high tolerance for pain, and secretly enjoys setting things on fire.
Like many 16-year-olds, Lonnie struggles to understand the world around him, but his personality quirks and the eccentric residents of his small town make it even more of a challenge. One March evening, Lonnie and others witness a woman whose car has broken down accept a ride from a man whom he suspects intends her harm—although no one else seems to share his concern. This mystery is soon overshadowed, however, when Lonnie’s father is killed in a mining accident. Now, without the one person who truly understood him, Lonnie becomes lost in an increasingly cruel world.
Living with an uncaring stepmother and her abusive boyfriend, Lonnie finds himself pushed too far. He sets fire to his home in a fit of rage, then flees into the national forest. On his own, he embarks on a dark journey that pits him against his personal demons and a few real ones he encounters along the way.
The novel includes elements of mystery, horror and suspense, but is ultimately about a young man struggling to find direction, and the battle between good and evil raging in his own mind. The events are inspired by the unique culture and landscape of rural Appalachia, where Justus lived for several years growing up.