“Impressively executed...[The characters’] voices are strong and convincing...Spechler is a talented writer who transcends melodrama and cliche with striking sensitivity and delicate touch.” (Boston Globe)
“In her affecting debut, Spechler raises the question of whether, in rescuing others, we risk ruining ourselves....Spechler’s debut raises provacative questions about religion, violence, and the resilience of families and individuals.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Impossible to put down, Who By Fire is a remarkable tale about fear and forgiveness and the bonds that hold a family together even as its members are falling apart. It’s a beautiful novel.” (Aryn Kyle, bestselling author of THE GOD OF ANIMALS)
“This book got hold of me and wouldn’t let me go, and it’s haunted me ever since I finished. I cannot wait for whatever’s next from Diana Spechler.” (Katrina Kittle, author of THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS)
“Told with grace, humor, and astonishing candor, this is a novel that will break your heart. To call it an extraordinary debut doesn’t do it justice. This is an extraordinary novel, period.” (Cristina Henriquez, author of COME TOGETHER, FALL APART)
“Bits’s adventures as she attempts to bring her brother home and deal with the ensuing family crisis provide this above-average debut novel with plenty of dramatic tension. Add this one to recommended lists of dysfunctional families in fiction.” (Booklist)
“[A] compelling debut novel . . . Spechler’s characters are engaging, and her contemplation of a family in anguish is affecting.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
“Spechler’s characters are lovable despite their numerous faults, and the story is not just dark but funny. Split among the three family members, the rich and varied narrative offers readers many avenues for enjoyment.” (Library Journal)
[T]here are no defining moments, no cast list stuck to a family's refrigerator door with an alphabet magnet. It's every single thing that happens to a family, the combination of experiences, that determines how they treat each other - from "Who By Fire". When Bits and Ash were children, their younger sister was kidnapped, a tragedy that led to their family's unraveling. Years later, Ash, who always blamed himself for Alena's disappearance, abruptly moved to Israel to become an Orthodox Jew. By the spring of 2002, with the second Intifada at its peak, Ash's new life has consumed him; he wants nothing to do with Bits anymore, or with their mother, Ellie.Bits, a twenty-something wild child living in Boston, who parties too much, consistently destroys her personal relationships, and seeks solace in sex, is almost willing to accept Ash's disappearance, until she hears the news that changes everything: After thirteen years, Alena's remains have been recovered. Now Bits is on her way to Israel to find Ash and bring him home for Alena's funeral.
She becomes obsessed with the idea of salvaging what's left of her family, but she approaches her mission with limited information: She doesn't know about the secrets her mother has been keeping, about the girl who is trying to seduce Ash away from the religious life, about the struggles that her brother is having with his faith. Told from the alternating points of view of the three family members, "Who By Fire" is a searing commentary on guilt, grief, and the inescapable bonds of family from a fresh and extremely talented new voice in American fiction.