From the acclaimed author of The Dog Stars, a novel about two men — friends since boyhood — who emerge from the woods of rural Maine to a dystopian country wracked by bewildering violence.
August 13, 2024
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Burn

Every year, Jess and Storey have made an annual pilgrimage to the most remote corners of the country, where they camp, hunt, and hike, leaving much from their long friendship unspoken. Although the state of Maine has convulsed all summer with secession mania — a mania that has simultaneously spread across other states — Jess and Storey figure it’s a fight reserved for legislators or, worse-case scenario, folks in the capital.

But after weeks hunting off the grid, the men reach a small town and are shocked by what they find: a bridge blown apart, buildings burned to the ground, and cars abandoned on the road. Trying to make sense of the sudden destruction all around them, they set their sights on finding their way home, dragging a wagon across bumpy dirt roads, scavenging from boats left in lakes, and dodging armed men — secessionists or U.S. military, they cannot tell — as they seek a path to safety. Then a startling discovery drastically alters their path and the stakes of their escape.

Drenched with the beauty of the natural world and attuned to the specific cadences of male friendship, even here at the edge of doom, Burn is both a blistering warning about a divided country’s political strife and an ode to the salvation found in our chosen families.

Praise & Reviews for Burn

Peter Heller’s seventh novel, Burn is one of his best: It’s full of heart and soul amid the bleak landscape (be forewarned, there are numerous bodies). In fact, even those who don’t normally turn to dystopian novels are likely to be completely captivated. Heller excels at writing about the wilderness, showcasing its might and beauty amid deadly situations, as he’s done before in books like The Last Ranger, The Guide and The RiverBurn is a propulsive tale that will keep readers on the edges of their seats from beginning to end.

— BookPage

Despite the high stakes, Heller gives the narrative plenty of space to breathe, allowing him to cast a haunting, immersive spell as his heroes traverse the ruined landscape. Painterly descriptions of nature and sparkling philosophical ruminations (“You are alone under the wheeling seasons, and the best memories are drained by loss”) elevate the proceedings. The result is a wilderness adventure with real emotional depth. ”

Publishers Weekly

Heller…highlight[s] the unique importance and strong bond of male friendship. He excels at nature writing too, with lush, sensuous descriptions of beautiful rural landscapes that are illustrative of an author clearly at home in the outdoors.”

Booklist

The power of the unspoken is deafening in Peter Heller’s powerful and rewarding tour de force, Burn. Two best friends on an extended hunting trip in rural northern Maine find themselves trapped behind the lines of a violent secessionist movement. The book is filled with exceptionally well rooted nature writing and a narrative intensity driven by the slowly unfurling mystery and danger of Jess and Storey’s circumstances. Yet, as the pieces slowly fall into place, all these strengths primarily serve to heighten and illuminate Burns core narrative, an exploration of what we owe each other, what our interpersonal responsibilities are and how the way we handle that responsibility defines the horizons of our personal narratives.”

— Kenny Brechner at Devaney Doak and Garrett Booksellers, Farmington ME

If he writes it, I will read it! This is my mantra regarding author, Peter Heller. Burn is the story of two lifelong friends that emerge from the deep woods after a long hunting trip only to find a dystopian scene. Secessionists have taken control of Maine and have left grave destruction in their wake. This page turner is a story of survival, shock, friendship, morality and the risks of polarization. You will fly through the pages but the story will linger with you for a very long time.”

— Fran Ziegler, Titcomb’s Bookshop

I could not put this book down, and finished the entire thing one morning. Told in tension filled prose, Heller takes us through the Maine woods during a rogue militia takeover where the hunters come upon burned villages, corpses, dead dogs, only boats left rocking in the lake breeze. Their lives are at stake and only their bravery, intuition and risk can save them. What a thrilling ride!”

— Annie Philbrick, Bank Square Books

Every fall childhood friends Jess and Storey spend a few weeks hunting and hiking in the woods of Northern Maine. This year when they emerge it’s into an eerily silent and changed world of burned and destroyed towns largely devoid of people. Has Maine succeeded from the Union? A civil war? Burn by Peter Heller is a riveting and chilling novel of survival and friendship set in a very possible near future. Highly recommended!”

— Caitlin Baker/​Island Books/​Mercer Island, WA

Peter Heller’s portrayal of thoughtful, sensitive, and intelligent men grows richer with each new novel, andBurn is exceptional. Two longtime friends are on a hunting trip in Maine when they find themselves in a freshly erupted war zone. US troops are fighting local secessionists. The friends try to escape the battle, but they are forced to engage, Past traumas are reawakened, and new ones are formed. Unputdownable and unforgettable.

— Kay Wosewick, Boswell Book Company 

Heller shares that rare kind of friendship that can only exist between people who communicate with few words. A friendship forged over time and replete with memories. A friendship able to survive secrets. 

Suspended between heartbreak and hope, Jess unfolds a past rife with loss, regret, and questions about existence… but also filled with love and belonging. His character development throughout the novel is masterfully subtle. He and Storey perform a give-and-take over decisions of survival at every step; their bond feels visceral. 

With strikingly tactile imagery peppered throughout scenes of profound emotional trauma, BURN presents the frightening scenario of a nation irrevocably divided, and two friends caught in the crosshairs. So what do the flags mean?” The question chills.

A novel impossible to put down, BURN consumed me.

— Laurel McHargue, award-winning author of the Waterwight series; Alligator Preserves podcast host