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Riley's Fire—PEOPLE Magazine Top Ten
Riley's Fire—PEOPLE Magazine Top Ten December 21, 2006
--Cinco Puntos Press

Riley's Fire lands on PEOPLE Magazine's list of Top Ten Books of 2006!

"Byrd's tour de force first novel follows the metamorphosis of Riley Martin, 6, gravely injured in a blaze of his own making. The burn hospital where Riley recovers sees its share of quirky miracles, and God makes a cameo appearance."

Editor's Choice, STARRED Review from People Magazine

Riley Martin, the hero of this powerful first novel, is a second grader much like any other: He spills Wheaties on the rug, loves the plastic pool behind his house and scorns Sarah, a 6-year-old who has a crush on him. He also plays with matches, which is how he starts a fire that leaves him with third-degree burns on 63 percent of his body. Flown to Galveston’s Shriners Burns Institute, he spends months in a kind of purgatory where, along with his body, his soul undergoes a transformation. Though his mother, in particular, may never be able to accept his physical deformities, Riley comes to see why only his spiritual gifts matter.

Byrd, whose own sons were seriously burned in a playhouse fire at ages 4 and 7 in 1981, and who spent months by their bedsides at Shriners, injects a chilling authenticity into Riley’s story. She captures the kindly jokiness of the “tub men” who immerse him in warm water and pick off his dead skin. There are frightening talks among specialists and multiple surgeries followed by “days of absolutely forlorn recovery.” Against this backdrop of fear and pain, Byrd forges a riveting story that, in the end, is astonishingly uplifting.

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