Truth Is A Fragmentary Thing In 'American Fire'

The rural Virginia county of Accomack was plagued by arson in the winter of 2012. The arsonist was caught, and in American Fire, Monica Hesse tries to tease out the elusive truth of why he did it.
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land, by Monica Hesse. Source: Liam James Doyle

"What really happened" is rarely something that can be pinned down: Where I see a pat on the back, you might see an assault; where I remember a rainy day, you may remember a hurricane. And then, of course, people lie. In American Fire, journalist Monica Hesse faces these quandaries of interpretation, faulty memory and lies, and deals eloquently with the he-said-she-said elements of her story.

On November 12, 2012, in a rural county called Accomack on the

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