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Reviewed by Jose Cornelio for Readers' Favorite
Stepping Into the Fire: A Journal about Growing-up in Appalachian Ohio by Steven P. Keller is an incisive book that explores the author’s memoirs and experiences of Ohio. The story features some of the favorite people in the life of the narrator and presents their stories against interesting cultural backdrops. People will share intriguing encounters — in an alley, a prostitute services a client, a man in a brown suit lies on the sidewalk, face-up, clutching a briefcase, and occasional fights are seen in the side streets. Telling Ruby, the prostitute, that he doesn't want whatever she is offering and getting the answer: “I’m not offering anything,” is not only interesting but an encounter that morphs into something curious. Characters like Willard Pike and the author’s recollections of him after his death, Jessie Caldwell, Aunt Mary, Jake Asbury, Childhood friends, and many others are wonderfully written with scenes that are as entertaining as they are revealing of cultural values.
Stepping Into the Fire is an interesting book because Steven P. Keller writes about people that are real and convincing and locales that readers can easily imagine. This book doesn’t have a linear storyline but presents a series of characters and intriguing and interesting stories about them. I enjoyed the chapter about Holly Nusbaugh, his favorite whore, a story that is as captivating as it is disturbing, and it asks the question: How does the daughter of a minister become a whore?” Themes like family, sexuality, and friendship are well explored and skillfully written. Stepping Into the Fire: A Journal about Growing-up in Appalachian Ohio reads like great fiction, a book with well-developed and fully drawn characters, told in a voice that is gripping, confident, and etched with humor.