Part elegy, part history, part existential ghost tale, The Stove-Junker is a harrowing, lyrical meditation on loss, heartbreak, and the power of memory. In this extraordinary debut novel, S.K. Kalsi has crafted a haunting tale of unvarnished self-examination, as experienced through the story's central character, Somerset Garden, the stove-junker.
In the winter of 2012, 79-year-old Somerset travels back to his ancestral home in idyllic Drums, Pennsylvania, to renovate his dilapidated house. Burdened by the loss of his beloved wife, the long-ago disappearance of his rebellious son, and angry at God and at himself, Somerset hopes to reach a final understanding of the meaning of his life. While a blizzard barrels down from the north, Somerset discovers an unnamed boy squatting on the property, a strange child who forces him to confront his past.
As he unearths objects in the house that had been lost or discarded in the debris, Somerset remembers his father's cruelty and the accident that cost him his brother's life; he revisits the itinerant wandering of his youth, tethered to a troubled mother; he mourns the loss of his wife and ponders the decades-long absence of his son - all of whom are caught in the grip of Luzerne County's ancient history of violence.