• Friendly Fire

Friendly Fire


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978-1-926455-41-9 | 2015 October | 168 Pages

Available as an audiobook on Audible, Hoopla, OverDrive, Audiobooks.comScribd, eStories, Downpour, Libro FMKobo, Google, and Apple.


  • Shortlisted for the 2016 O'Reilly Insurance and the Co-Operators First Book Award!

As a long, hot Saskatchewan summer dawns, Darby Swank’s life is forever changed when she finds her beloved aunt floating dead in a lake. All at once, her blinders are lifted and she sees the country lifestyle she’s always known in a whole new way, with hidden pain and anguish lurking behind familiar faces, and violence forever threatening to burst forth, like brushfire smouldering and dormant under the muskeg.

With her first novel, Lisa Guenther lays bare familial bonds, secret histories and the healing potential of art. Friendly Fire eviscerates small-town platitudes and brings important issues to light.

“Lisa Guenther’s arresting blend of suspense, family drama, and the healing power of music makes Friendly Fire a captivating debut novel."
~ Theresa Shea, author of The Unfinished Child

“A well-paced character study with a strong sense of place.”
~ Leo Brent Robillard, Backwater Review

Friendly Fire is a remarkably honest and self-critical look at life in rural Saskatchewan.”
~ Tom Ingram, The Winnipeg Review

“It's clear Guenther knows rural small-town life, and in this novel she paints a vivid picture of both its foibles and its merits.“
~ Sharon Chisvin, Winnipeg Free Press

Brightsand Lake is a large oval, and we sit on the northeast shore. A couple feet from where we lounge, cold springs bubble up from the reeds, rusting the sand and chilling the water. My Aunt Bea painted one of these springs. Soft mineral formations like aquatic cities within the springs, the tall grasses standing guard around the pools. The canvas has been hanging in her kitchen since before Mom got sick—more than five years now—but every time I look at it, I notice more details.

North of us is the main beach, a mile of golden sand dotted with people and beach blankets. On the west part of the main beach, sandbars are pushing out of the water like the ribs of a starving whale. People have planted their lawn chairs on the sandbars and lounge with their feet in the water.

I’ve been coming to this park for as long as I can remember. Dad and I used to ride our horses here in the early spring and late fall, when the campers weren’t around. We’d take the short¬cut along Crocus Ridge and through Aunt Bea and Uncle Will’s pastures, gallop down the jack pine-lined fairways of the park’s golf course, then follow the winding road deeper into the park, through the black spruce and poplar. When we reached the main beach, we’d stop our horses and watch, silent. Sometimes white-tailed deer would emerge from the forest, edge up to the lake for a drink. Then we’d lope down the beach, the horses’ hooves flinging clumps of wet sand like kids having a food fight. Deer would startle, bound back into the woods.

In the off-season, the park was ours. But after my mom died, we stopped riding our horses here. I can’t tell you why, exactly. I didn’t ask Dad if he wanted to, and he didn’t suggest it.

My life is divided in two. The time before my mom died, and the time after. The time before is set, like a bug stuck in hardened amber. The time after keeps growing, changing. Almost unrecognizable from the life I thought I’d have.