Documenting an attempt to form attachments to one’s own thoughts and feelings, the novel traces the atmospheres surrounding a highly specific incident of passionate trespass, whereby the protagonist is motivated to seek and enter a site of inexplicable significance that belongs to another. Set around the time of the Harvest Moon in New England, US, it is nature heavy, with ponds, fields, teaming wetlands, miles of glacial stone wall and a pristine river running through it. Including painstaking observation and louche conjecture, the novel revisits real events in the local area, such as the mutually beneficial spectacle of the title – a “live burn” of a pair of dilapidated chicken coops that took place in the year 2000.
As well as continuing Morrison’s interest in the ethics of interpersonal encroachment, the novel approaches the notion of personal experience as spiritual necessity via several minor episodes that also explore its costs. In addition, the narrative drives and follows an abstract anxiety to its final, obliterating manifestation, a pure ecstatic fear that exists for the anxious - always and only - as potential. Questions of control, empathy, responsibility and self-care flow back and forth throughout.