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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. While the author was inspired in part by actual events, none of the characters in Those Who Favor Fire is based on an actual person and any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

Copyright © 1998 by Lauren Wolk

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following for permission to reprint previously published material:

EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY SOCIETY: “Dirge Without Music” from Collected Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay (HarperCollins). Copyright © 1928, 1955 by Edna St. Vincent Millay and Norma Millay Ellis. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Elizabeth Barnett, Literary Executor.

FAMOUS MUSIC CORPORATION: Excerpt from “Moon River” by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini. Copyright © 1961 by Famous Music Corporation. Copyright renewed 1989 by Famous Music Corporation. Reprinted by permission of Famous Music Corporation.

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY, INC., AND JONATHAN CAPE, A DIVISION OF RANDOM HOUSE UK: “Fire and Ice,” the final stanza of “Reluctance,” and title usage of one line from “Fire and Ice” from The Poetry of Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright © 1951, 1962 by Robert Frost. Copyright © 1923, 1934, 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, Inc. Rights throughout the British Commonwealth are controlled by Jonathan Cape, a division of Random House UK. Reprinted by permission of Henry Holt and Company, Inc., and Jonathan Cape, a division of Random House UK.

POLYGRAM MUSIC PUBLISHING: Excerpt from “Midnight Train to Georgia” by James D. Weatherly. Copyright © 1971 by Polygram International Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Polygram Music Publishing.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Wolk, Lauren.

  Those who favor fire: a novel / Lauren Wolk.

   p. cm.

  eISBN: 978-0-307-56062-9

  I. Title.

PS3573.05652T48 1998

813’. 54—dc2I 97-39827

Random House website address:




Title Page


Book One

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Book Two

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Book Three

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54


About the Author



When a spider plunged from a fixed point to its consequences, it always sees before it an empty space where it can never set foot, no matter how it wriggles.


Chapter 1

        Halloween was hellish in Belle Haven. It hadn’t always been that way, except in the minds of its small children, who could not imagine that the world had been any different—that there had even been a world—before their own momentous arrival in it. But the year that Mary Beth Sanderson died, Halloween was, at best, impure, corrupted by its cavalier association with the dead and dying both. Less than a week had passed since the earth had opened up and taken Mary Beth, and the town was still in mourning. But Halloween was Halloween, and the people of Belle Haven went about the whole thing with the last of their resolve.

It was as if they couldn’t pass up the chance to polish Belle Haven’s silver lining, to flash it one last time in the cool light of an indulgent moon. Despite misgivings, those who had not yet left Belle Haven carved their jack-o’-lanterns with exceptional precision, decorated their trees with elaborate ghouls, and chose their candies with care. Then they entrusted their children to the uncertain dusk, warning them to beware not of child snatchers or rapists or bullies but of the very ground they walked on.

Living on top of a fire makes people cautious. It makes them wonder whether a flaming tentacle is at this moment winding its way toward the root cellar. It makes them walk softly and sniff the air for sulfur like a species of strange, two-legged deer. It makes them fight amongst themselves when the conversation turns to the tired old question, now nearly moot, of whether they should pack their bags and leave or stay and, quite possibly, die.

Rachel Hearn had listened to such arguments for a long time now—in the grocery store, at the post office, on the radio, in the street. She understood the urge to go as well as the resolve to stay. She even understood the really stubborn ones who saw the boreholes spouting their plumes of yellow smoke, who watched litter turn to ash as it blew across the hot ground, who had known Mary Beth Sanderson for every one of her thirteen years and still refused to take the fire at its word.

“It’ll never get us,” they’d say. “The fire’s nowhere near my house.” But they all owned canaries and kept one eye on the ground.

Rachel Hearn thought there were simply too many pianos.

“What the hell are you talking about?” asked Joe. Most people knew him by this name alone. Just Joe. “What in blazes have pianos got to do with the fire?” (Fire puns, intended or not, were an accepted and rarely acknowledged part of conversation in Belle Haven.)

Joe was sitting on a tree stump this Halloween night, dressed as a troll, eating a huge, tight-skinned MacIntosh and watching a handful of children sneak slowly down the street toward him. To cross the old and narrow bridge that took Maple Street over Raccoon Creek, the children had to first pass close to the stump where Joe sat, collecting his toll. Rachel, done up as a witch, perched on the rail of the bridge, swung her feet in their tall boots, and absently stabbed her own palms with her sharp witch’s nails.

She said, “I once heard someone say that the reason more Jews didn’t try to escape Nazi Germany before it was too late was because they couldn’t

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