Late on a summer night in 1985, three teenagers are in a tragic car crash on the quiet, suburban Division Avenue. A girl is killed, and Theo and Sarah Wilf are left with a devastating secret that will haunt their family forever.
How the accident happens (vividly detailed and choreographed by Shapiro) and how it is handled (never to be spoken of again) will haunt the survivors, and those pulled into the accident's orbit, for the rest of the book ... She is obviously interested in what people fail to say in Signal Fires, but the novel explores so much more — big picture stuff, like time and how it's experienced ... The author is adept, however, at juxtaposing the magical (not magical realism) and the modern, showing how locations can be the same and not the same, and that a place can be right for some and not for others but that life can still turn out all right ... Shapiro goes deep in but it pays off. Her crisp prose propels the reader onward: I wanted to know what was going to happen to the characters and I was simultaneously fascinated by the metaphysics. It's definitely a novel worth your time — whatever your sense of that is.
For a novel that starts with a crash — literally — Dani Shapiro’s 11th book, Signal Fires, turns out to be a quieter and more philosophical work than its dramatic, tragic opening might suggest ... Vintage Shapiro are the novel’s metaphysical themes: the intersections of time and memory, the reality of the human soul and the unexpected bonds between strangers ... The structure of the book affords Shapiro plenty of room to build out her characters’ destinies and inner lives, which she does skillfully and with precise attention to detail. Their careers are a particular pleasure: Theo becomes a celebrity chef, Sarah a successful screenwriter, and each of these worlds is fleshed out with alluring authenticity ... Shapiro’s novel offers the comfort of a view from the stars.
A family story, told in the gorgeous, evocative language she’s known for ... The novel’s narrative occasionally moves into a mystical mode, which feels a little out of place, but Signal Fires is mainly a meditation on families—the secrets we keep, the hurts we don’t mean to inflict—and how those secrets and hurts play out over time.