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A World Made of Fire



Note to my readers:  A World Made of Fire was my first published novel, and it has been out of print for several years.  I am delighted to have it back in a brand-new edition from Overture Books.  Click here to order yourself a copy, and several more for your friends! 




Original Jacket Copy, Knopf edition

An extraordinary burst of praise (see the back of the jacket) celebrates the publication of Mark Childress's enthralling first novel. A World Made of Fire is set in Alabama at the turn of the century and tells the story of the large-hearted Callie Bates and her adoring children; Callie, who married a Bates like herself but from the far end of the same proud line (a great-aunt arranged it -- he was fifty, a preacher and alone, and Callie had her own young shame to put right). It is the story of the preacher-husband leaving in a buggy after the wedding and returning twice a year with money and spiteful sermons about the children Callie gives birth to year after year in his absence. It is the story of the secret visitor who is the radiant element of Callie's life; of the tragic Christmas Day of 1901; and of the children who survive it -- Jacko, believed to have magical powers because he was saved from the fire in his mother's arms, and young Stella, blighted by the sorrow she has witness and outlived, struggling to open out once again to the comforts and risks of love. And it is the story of the canny old woman who enters Stella's life with tales of powers unseen.

A World Made of Fire is a novel of place, of emotional subtlety and suspense, of mysteries resolved, and of life affirmed. It marks the debut of an immensely gifted novelist.

Reviews:

Mark Childress is is an artist, with an ear comparable to Eudora Welty's, which to me is the highest praise one can give. I haven't read a Southern novel since Losing Battles that has given me such pleasure.
-- Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird

The sense of reality with which Childress imbues his characters and their situation is remarkable. He has the true novelist's ability to commit himself entirely to the people and events he envisions, and this is rare; the reader is certain at all points that the author is not playing with the subject, but writing from deep within it. A truly outstanding book is the result.
-- James Dickey

A World Made of Fire is earthy, adroit, moving -- an excellent novel by a writer of great promise and talent.
-- Jesse Hill Ford

Mark Childress is a young novelist who has written a memorable story out of the land and people of the Deep South that throughout its length is constantly intruguing with unexpected innovations. The ever-present undercurrent of mystical events will probably startle many readers by arousing and bringing forth unfamiliar emotions.
-- Erskine Caldwell


A wonderful and powerful novel...Childress's debut in the world of fiction is a cause to be celebrated; he is the real thing.
-- Pat Conroy

Mark Childress's new-fashioned saga is full of delicate electricity and raw power.

-- Barry Hannah

This is a damned fine story. There is more here than story, though. This baby resonates. Mark Childress is a writer of almost uncanny stylistic ability and clear vision. His eye for detail is extraordinary. It makes you want to holler Oh yeah! like a guy who's gotten religion at a riverside camp meeting. It's close; it's luxurious in its rightness; it fulfills the central demand of art...to make us see more in what we always thought we were seeing.
-- Stephen King

A haunting first novel...There is a clear light of genuine story-telling talent shining through it all.
-- Library Journal

In an impressive debut, Childress has produced a spellbinding tale in the Southern gothic tradition. A writer of poetic acuity, he evokes the atmospher of a small Southern town and brings its inhabitants to life through their colorful, softly cadenced speech. Childress's remarkable command of language -- he uses imagery with sensuous skill -- his sure sense of plot, fueled by mysticism and mystery, and most of all, his beautifully nuanced depiction of Stella's coming of age, will keep readers enthralled.
-- Publishers Weekly

That rarest of finds, an unsentimental coming-of-age story, A World Made of Fire is also an engrossing mystery. Wrapped in its tale of voodoo and midnight rides is a detailed bestiary of human emotions and behaviors.
San Francisco Chronicle

Mark Childress's first novel is a complex allegory of pagan magic and Christian retribution. Mr. Childress writes his haunting novel with poetic cadences in brief, intense chapters. He is an author of imagination. Stella's coming of age in grief and loneliness is drawn wtih graceful authenticity.
-- Valerie Miner, The New York Times Book Review

A startlingly original first novel. Not only do a great many marvelous things happen, they do so in a time and place so untapped that Childress is able to claim the territory as his alone. He has marked himself, at the tender age of twenty-six, as a major new fictional voice.
-- Bruce van Wyngarden, Saturday Review

The ambivalence of fire -- as evocation of glowing love and furious destruction -- permeates this stunning first novel by Mark Childress, a young Southern writer who gives fresh expression to his region's literary preoccupations. Childress has created a wholly believable world... A World Made of Fire probes varieties of tenderness and love. Reading it is rather like staring for a good long while into the coals of a fire; in that concentration of energy, many things can be learned.
-- Henry Mayer, Newsday




In an impressive debut, Childress has produced a spellbinding tale in the Southern gothic tradition. A writer of poetic acuity, he evokes the atmosphere of a small Southern town and brings its inhabitants to life through their colorful, softly cadenced speech. Childress's remarkable command of language -- he uses imagery with sensuous skill -- his sure sense of plot, fueled by mysticism and mystery, and most of all, his beautifully nuanced depiction of Stella's coming of age, will keep readers enthralled.
-- Publishers Weekly

That rarest of finds, an unsentimental coming-of-age story, A World Made of Fire is also an engrossing mystery. Wrapped in its tale of voodoo and midnight rides is a detailed bestiary of human emotions and behaviors.
San Francisco Chronicle

Mark Childress's first novel is a complex allegory of pagan magic and Christian retribution. Mr. Childress writes his haunting novel with poetic cadences in brief, intense chapters. He is an author of imagination. Stella's coming of age in grief and loneliness is drawn wtih graceful authenticity.
-- Valerie Miner, The New York Times Book Review

A startlingly original first novel. Not only do a great many marvelous things happen, they do so in a time and place so untapped that Childress is able to claim the territory as his alone. He has marked himself, at the tender age of twenty-six, as a major new fictional voice.
-- Bruce van Wyngarden, Saturday Review

The ambivalence of fire -- as evocation of glowing love and furious destruction -- permeates this stunning first novel by Mark Childress, a young Southern writer who gives fresh expression to his region's literary preoccupations. Childress has created a wholly believable world... A World Made of Fire probes varieties of tenderness and love. Reading it is rather like staring for a good long while into the coals of a fire; in that concentration of energy, many things can be learned.
-- Henry Mayer, Newsday
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