The Junior Arsonist’s Club
Motherhood. Pyromania. A husband’s secret. Marilyn wasn’t prepared for any of it.
For young parents Marilyn and Brad, adopting an orphan girl from Belgorod, Russia, was supposed to make their lives complete. But from the moment she arrives, 12-year-old Zhanna has one thing on her mind: setting fire to the family couch. At first Marilyn is determined to love the pyromania right out of her new daughter. But when Brad jets away on business—or so it seems—Marilyn is forced into a dark and hilarious game of cat-and-mouse with the preteen pyromaniac. Can Marilyn get through to Zhanna before she burns down the house—and before her own life goes down in flames?
Starred Review From Publisher’s Weekly:
“Zhanna wanted to burn the couch. I watched the TV. She watched the couch. It was like that every night.” So begins Tollifson’s (Mother) hilarious dark comedy about a 12-year-old girl hell-bent on setting the living room seating aflame and the woman who’s become her unwilling sentinel. Zhanna, adopted at age nine from a Russian orphanage, has never bonded with Marilyn, and with a glibly unconcerned father/husband away from home more often than not, the two have established an uneasy détente, aided by night vision cameras, motion sensor alarms, and a wholly inept and inappropriate therapist who can’t seem to grasp the gravity of Marilyn’s situation: “I felt heat coming from the door and worried if the window in Dr. Gary’s office would open, and if we could safely get out,” Marilyn narrates. “We were two floors up and I had no memory of whether or not the building had a fire escape…. My throat was closing. These could be the last few moments of my life.” An arresting narrative from beginning to end, Tollifson’s short novel introduces a cast of characters you’ll remember for some time.