Following in her father’s footsteps, volcanologist Anna Arnesdottir studies Iceland’s volatile fire-giants, which lie sleeping until they rouse themselves to burn the land to ash. Anna’s ordered approach to her work and personal life rarely leads her into the “cowboy” lifestyle like some of her coworkers; Anna lives in the suburbs with her husband and children, taking few risks and being haunted by her beautiful, impersonal home. But as the volcano range stirs to life, Anna’s personal life erupts as well. Her meeting with photographer Tomas Adler sends them into a passionate affair, forcing her to confront everything she believes and threatening everything Anna has worked toward.
The Fires by Sigridur Hagalin Bjornsdottir, translation by Larissa Kyzer, was a viral hit in Iceland and deserves no less recognition here. While the lack of quotation marks demarcating dialog can be off-putting at times, it doesn’t take away from the beauty of this novel. Anna’s life and the eruptions mirror one another and intertwine with stunning complexity until the book turns into a breathless spiral of love, fire, longing, science, poetry, and volcanoes.