The “doom everywhere” message that Stacey Cameron Macaindra, the protagonist of The Fire-Dwellers, allows to permeate her outlook on life is a projection of the inner turmoil she is experiencing. The real inferno of the novel burns in Stacey’s agitated consciousness. Stacey struggles to get a grip on herself, to accept her inadequacies, to accept that her family is never going to be like a Norman Rockwell painting, and to accept that she must aspire to represent sanity in what she sees as an insane world. The omniscient narrator gives credence to Stacey’s assessment of life yet maintains a distance needed for the reader to be objective about Stacey’s character, as the primary mode of narration is Stacey’s interior monologues, used for acute self-evaluation and expressing her indomitable wrath. Without Stacey’s sardonic burbles, this would be simply another novel about an oppressed woman ready to have a nervous breakdown. Stacey is too much of a survivor to crack up, but she is caught in a self-defeating groove in which she is communicating her own awfulness to herself without communicating anything constructive to anyone else.
The events of the novel transpire over several months before Stacey’s fortieth birthday. Reaching forty is enough of a crisis, but Stacey, housewife and mother of four, is not certain about anything anymore. She goes through the motions of being alive; she looks after her husband and children and tries to cope with world events, but it all seems a bit much for one person to shoulder. Stacey wants to communicate with her family, but she cannot make the right connections. Her family takes her for granted; her husband, Mac, is only interested in his job; her teenage daughter, Katie, seems to hate her mother; her two sons, Duncan and...
(The entire section is 732 words.)