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An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England | [Brock Clarke]

An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England

As a teenager, it was never Sam Pulsifer's intention to torch an American landmark, and he certainly never planned to kill two people in the blaze. To this day, he still wonders why that young couple was upstairs in bed in the Emily Dickinson House after hours. After serving 10 years in prison for his crime, Sam is determined to put the past behind him. His low-profile life is chugging along quite nicely until the past comes crashing through his front door.
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Publisher's Summary

As a teenager, it was never Sam Pulsifer's intention to torch an American landmark, and he certainly never planned to kill two people in the blaze. To this day, he still wonders why that young couple was upstairs in bed in the Emily Dickinson House after hours.

After serving 10 years in prison for his crime, Sam is determined to put the past behind him. He finishes college, begins a career, falls in love, gets married, has two adorable kids, and buys a home. His low-profile life is chugging along quite nicely until the past comes crashing through his front door.

As the homes of Robert Frost, Edith Wharton, Herman Melville, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, and even a replica of Henry David Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond, go up in smoke, Sam becomes the number-one suspect. Finding the real culprit is the only way to clear his name. But sometimes there's a terrible price to pay for the truth.

An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England is a tour de force: a novel disguised as a memoir, a mystery that cloaks itself in humor, and an artful piece of literature that bites the hand that breeds it.

©2007 Brock Clarke; (P)2007 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"A serious novel that is often very funny and will be a page-turning pleasure for anyone who loves literature." (Kirkus Reviews)
"[A] delightfully dark story....Sam is equal parts fall guy and tour guide in this bighearted and wily jolt to the American literary legacy." (Publishers Weekly)

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Average Customer Rating

2.8 (64 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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Overall
2.7 (6 )
5 star
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4 star
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1 star
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Story
3.2 (6 )
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  •  
    Sara USA 03-27-08
    Sara USA 03-27-08 Member Since 2008

    No plot spoiler reviews allowed!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    459
    ratings
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    112
    86
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    Overall
    "A downer of a book"

    I had read a great review of this book and was thrilled to have found it on audible. However once I started listening I found it was very slow, plodding and exhausting to listen to. At first I decided that the reader's dead pan style was ruining what at times could have been a sarcastically funny narrative. So--I kept at it and finished the whole thing. While the book had an occasional interesting insight -- the "good" parts never materialized and over all it was depressing. Even when the reader perked up a bit it was still deadly. It focused on betrayal of those we love, our families, spouses, friends and most of all ourselves. It presented such as nasty, hateful view of life that I am very sorry I lasted through the whole reading. It lacked any kind of redemption and left a really dark cloud hanging over the heads of the reader, the listener, and the poor characters portrayed. I hope I've learned not to be such a compulsive "finisher" of things I've started. I would have been better off walking away from this one.

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sally las vegas, NV, USA 09-12-09
    Sally las vegas, NV, USA 09-12-09 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    23
    1
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    Overall
    "Felt like burning the book."

    The main character was unappealingly flat and almost autistic in nature. He seems such a literalist (Asperger's Syndrome, perhaps?) - so one dimensional - that I found his character difficult to relate to. That's not to say autistic characters can't work as the main voice in a story. The Dog Who Barked in the Night is a splendid example of this. I really kept trying to like this book, as the story line was so original and quirky, but getting through it was a chore for me. Can't recommend this one.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charlene Seattle, WA, United States 11-09-07
    Charlene Seattle, WA, United States 11-09-07 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    122
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    47
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    Overall
    "disappointing"

    I expected to enjoy this book, because I am a fan of mysteries, dark humor and literary history. Unfortunately, I couldn't get through the first few chapters. The main character is uncompelling and the action is very, very slow. I'm not sure why this is considered a funny book, since nothing in the first 2 hours is remotely amusing. I think this is only the 2nd audiobook in 3 years that I have not finished.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Suze Jackson, NJ, United States 11-01-07
    Suze Jackson, NJ, United States 11-01-07 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    74
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    "Less than 1 Star"

    don't waste a minute on this ridiculous novel. It made me crazy just getting through it and, only because I must finish anything I start, did I even go that far.
    It just droned on and on and seemed to have nothing meaningful to say. Just taking the time to type a review of it makes me feel as nutty as the main character.!!

    8 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer Seattle , WA, USA 09-15-08
    Jennifer Seattle , WA, USA 09-15-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    3
    1
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    0
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    "Please get the narrator an encyclopedia"

    OK, I admit, this is super nitpicky, but in the first chapter, the narrator says the two main place names wrong. "Holyoke" is pronounced "whole-yolk" and Amherst has a silent H to anyone who's ever spent time there. I don't know why this is so annoying, but I guess it feels like an indication of a bigger inauthenticity in this book, and a sloppy detail they should have easily caught.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jilleen WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Canada 07-13-10
    Jilleen WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Canada 07-13-10 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    6
    4
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    Overall
    "don't miss it!"

    I cannot understand the reviews of others of this book, I was enchanted and bespelled by this perfectly bizarre story, when I don't have any new books on my Ipod, and I find myself on a plane or something, this is my go to audiobook, I can listen to the story, and the fantastic narrator over and over again. Definitely download this book!

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Toby NEW ROCHELLE, NY, United States 07-18-13
    Toby NEW ROCHELLE, NY, United States 07-18-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    Performance
    Story
    "Honestly not that good"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    My main problem with the book is that I became very tired of the narrator "bumbling" his way to pain and failure. Those who do not mind listening to someone end up in easily avoidable painful situations may enjoy this book. I honestly have no idea why it became so popular


    What was most disappointing about Brock Clarke’s story?

    The main character. He was painful to be inside the head of. He was flaccid and useless, letting bad things happen instead of doing anything active. Having taken a class with Brock this is not surprising. He tends to pick books with narrators that are difficult to like let alone relate to


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    It had some decent turns of phrase, but really no, it was pretty unenjoyable


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    GAYLE E BAXLEY RENO, NV United States 09-14-10
    GAYLE E BAXLEY RENO, NV United States 09-14-10
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    32
    3
    Overall
    "I am trying to get through it"

    Maybe it is just me, but this book seems really inane. The main character is so self absorbed, he speculates on every little thing. Maybe I will change my mind if I ever get through the book, but right now it is an ordeal.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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