Tournament of Books 2015
 
 

Review-a-Day
Esquire
Wednesday, April 28th, 2004


 

Working Fire: The Making of an Accidental Fireman

by Zac Unger

Lines of Fire

A review by Daniel Torday

Here's Zac Unger's description of the first time he almost died:

"My hands were shaking. I was losing my grip on the rope, and I wanted to crawl out of my skin and lie on the ground sucking in great mouthfuls of air. I don't remember letting the weight slide back down again; I was in such a panic to pull off my mask that I probably just let it drop....The air felt so good, the fetid roasted-coffee breeze so sweet."
Unger's sweaty-palmed memoir, Working Fire, tells of his switch from Ivy Leaguer destined for a life sentence in academia to hard-baked Oakland firefighter. The book as a whole does exactly what the preceding passage does: It sucks you in. And like the best adventure tales — from Jon Krakauer's to Sebastian Junger's — it steps out of the way and lets you go through the adventure yourself.


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