Playing with Matches

A Novel

Publisher: Bantam
When I felt truly lost—which was most of the time—I went out to the narrow lot and sat down in the weeds. From there I could observe both houses. After all, I had two eyes, didn’t I? Two nostrils, two arms, two knobby knees. The trouble was, I had only one heart.

Growing up in False River, Mississippi, Clea Shine learned early that a small town is no place for big secrets. Having fled years ago in the wake of a tragedy and now settled with a family of her own, she faces a turning point in her marriage and seeks refuge in the one place she vowed never to return.

Clea’s homecoming is bittersweet. Reunited with Jerusha Lovemore, the kindly neighbor who raised her, Clea gains a sense of love and comfort, but still cannot escape the ghosts of her past: the abandonment by her disreputable mother, her constant search for belonging, the truth behind that fateful night from long ago. Once outspoken and impulsive, Clea now seeks only redemption and peace of mind. And as a hurricane threatens to hit False River, everything she has tried to forget may finally be exposed once and for all.  

A mesmerizing and poignant work by a master of the Soutern novel, Playing with Matches is a stunning tale of guilt, forgiveness, and the enduring bonds of family.



If there’s help for the little guy—­for my Harry, who won’t talk—­it’ll be north on a green elbow of the slow-­moving Pearl River. But that’s the one place in the world I cannot go. It would mean the chicken circus, the boy who lived in the tree. The burning bed....
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Praise for Carolyn Wall’s Sweeping Up Glass

“Extraordinary . . . filled with arresting images, bitter humor, and characters with palpable physical presence.”—The Boston Globe

“[Wall’s] evocative prose recalls the regional style of such authors as Flannery O’Connor, Harper Lee, and Eudora Welty.”—Mystery Scene