Novel, Memoir, Short Stories

Who by Fire: A novel : December 2012, Outer Banks Publishing Group. Available on Amazon and book stores—and click here for major discount from the publisher
.Anthony Policastro, CEO Outer Banks Publishing Group: During the publishing process of Who by Fire, we treated it like the art it is - paying painstaking attention to every detail to produce the perfect book to tell the perfect story. Quite simply, we have chosen Who by Fire for publication under our name because it is like nothing else we have read and has earned its place among books that matter. 

Who by Fire is told by Robert, Lena’s husband, as he attempts to understand her affair with Isaac, an affair that he has become aware of after her death. He imagines the story of his wife and her lover. Robert the narrator is trying to know himself in the story he is writing as he tells his imagined version of his wife’s betrayal. The story becomes a paradoxical tale of his own undoing that he comes to realize by telling it. In the epigraph to the novel, Robert says, “Life has a way of raveling. Story discovers how it happened. That is the fiction.” This is the reader’s first introduction to Robert’s persona, a man who must control the world he inhabits. The telling of the story as he imagines it, reveals more than he would have wished and as this occurs, his telling moves into real time, for there is no way for him to deal with what he discovers except to report what is actually happening versus what he has imagined.


Robert Olen Butler, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain: Mary L. Tabor's Who by Fire is a lovely, innovative, deeply engaging novel about how it is that human beings make their way through the mysteries of existence.

Lee Martin, author of Break the Skin and The Bright Forever, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize: Mary Tabor’s Who by Fire, is a lyric meditation on love and desire, one that will catch you up in the blaze of its eroticism, its tender evocation of love and the passions and accommodations of a life lived through the flesh and through the imagination. Can memory lead to forgiveness? Who by Fire explores that question in a story I won’t soon forget. The beauty of the prose, the nuances of the characters, the ever-building plot—everything is in place for a novel that will touch you in all the right ways.

Marly Swick, author of Paper Wings and The Evening News: Who By Fire is a profound and lyrical novel, deeply felt and deeply moving. Intricately layered, this novel loops through time with the dare-devil courage and grace of a seasoned stunt pilot. In the narrator's unflinching journey of self-discovery, he comes to understand the past, both his failures and his saving graces. In the end, it is a hero's journey, both for the narrator and the reader. This is beautiful truth. 

Michael Johnson, foreign correspondent and writer for The International Herald Tribune, American Spectator, Open Letters Monthly and The Columnists.comMary Tabor’s captivating story of love and death tackles the tangle of relationships within and outside the bonds of marriage. Her eye-popping knowledge of men’s and women’s behavior is effortlessly recounted as couples face their anguished choices. Set in a world of art, music, anthropology and science, her novel enlightens the mind while it stirs the emotions. She does all this in a confident style of prose that ranks her alongside the finest novelists working today.

Who by Fire wins Notable Literary Fiction Award Excerpt of review: The novel’s unusual structure is one of its best features. One reviewer describes it as “a painting in process,” where Tabor, as a painter, focuses on different aspects of the story, adding detail, color, music, and history to each part of the whole until at the end the entire work and all its beauty come to the forefront.

Who by Fire returns time and again to anecdotes of random people committing acts of bravery as well as the controlled fire Robert witnessed in Iowa as a younger man. Serving as a counterpoint to the main story, these fragments reveal the person Robert is and the profound change taking place inside him.

Tabor employs artistic and musical concepts to describe people and situations in a way that makes these descriptions central to understanding the novel.  Unlike many other novels, discussions about physics, psychology, art, and music and not just erudite fluff, but actually give the story texture and depth, moving it along.

One section discusses the difference in the use of perspective in a work by Vermeer and one by Matisse. It then transitions into a discussion of how individuals can perceive objects and situations in completely different ways depending on their perspective.

Tabor likewise describes the idea of perfect pitch in music, then artfully turning it around to describe a person with perfect pitch in terms of being able to pick up subtle cues in conversation, in the tone of another’s voice, to discern what the speaker is really saying and feeling.

Multilayered, cerebral, and at the same time powerfully sensual, this novel discusses love in its beauty, pain and complexity. In her award-winning book, Tabor paints a realistic and touching picture of marriage, friendship and family.

Read Johnson's full review on Here's an excerpt: Who By Fire bursts into flame on the first page with a description of a spectacular controlled barn fire in Iowa farm country. The fire theme seems to pervade the story metaphorically as characters lead their risky lives. This is more than an urban love story. Set in Washington, D.C., It is a dissection of the pleasures and turmoil that straying spouses inevitably experience – and the deadening effect on the betrayed. Ms. Tabor takes the time to develop characters so that you care about what they are going through.

Laura Sesana, columnist, reviews Who by FireI absolutely LOVED this book. In fact, it has been the best book I’ve read in a long time and wished I hadn’t finished it as quickly as I did. ... One of the things that stand out the most about the novel is its unusual structure.  One reviewer describes it as “a painting in process,” where the author focuses on different aspects of the story, adding detail, color, music, and history to each part of the whole until at the end the entire work and all its beauty come to the forefront. 

Margaret Brown, publisher of Shelf Unbound, recommends Who by Fire as a book club selection. Read the interview with Mary and be sure to discover Shelf Unbound (full issue is below).

Literary magazine All the Thunder: for the myth and the mind, Aubrey Sanders, editor-in-chief reviews Who by Fire (plus novel excerpt and interview) Sanders says, "Every once in a rare while a novel emerges from a small press that promises to part the literary tides and challenge the way we think about fiction. Mary Tabor's Who by Fire simply defies genre. It is a story about love that cannot be reduced to a love story, a tragic account of desire and grief that never descends into tragedy."

Small Press Reviews Who by Fire:  Mary L. Tabor offers a beautifully-wrought tale of love, mourning, and betrayal. Read the full review.

Mary W. Walters: "This lyrical reflective novel, images laced with symbolism. ... Robert – the narrator – drops memories like stones into still pools, and then observes the wave rings as they expand and collide, creating new patterns that lead to new collisions. In engineering physics, such collisions are described as 'wave interference' – apt, considering the subject matter of Tabor’s novel." Read the full review.

 “The Fire,” excerpt from completed novel, Chautauqua Literary Journal, summer 2006, review of The Woman Who Never Cooked also appears in this issue.
 The Fire,” excerpt from novel, second prize for prose, Tall Grass Writers Guild (Lee Martin, judge) and publication in Falling in Love Again, anthology, Outrider Press, September 2005 (Mary L. Tabor, featured reader at Chicago Book Fair, June 2005).
 “The Fire,” excerpt nominated in January 2005 for Pushcart Prize XXXI by Joan Connor.
• Semi-finalist, 2004 James Jones First Novel Fellowship under former working-title Controlled Burn.

Talk on Who by Fire

Mary Tabor "Who By Fire" Reading - 4 minute from William Holloway on Vimeo.

Q and A with Mary on Writing
You may also watch this on Vimeo with sharper clarity


Video interview below and more about the book (Re)Making Love: A Memoir.
The memoir of the good the bad and the foolish: One woman's journey that proves it's never too late to find love—or oneself.

(Re)Making Love: A Memoir
(Re)Making Love: A Memoir is one of those stories you just couldn’t make up. This memoir, the second book by Mary L. Tabor, transports the reader in a most unusual way through a remarkable journey of redemption after a 21-year marriage crashes and burns when her husband “D.” announces, so Greta Garbo, “I need to live alone.” She craters, then embarks on a relentless dash through the hazards of Internet dating, the loving, the illusions, and through it all a hard look at herself—her foibles, whimsy, desolations, indomitable hope when all was hopeless, and ultimate self-discovery. The origin of the writing as a live blog is apparent in a book that is, as Marly Swick has said, “uniquely beautiful and moving in both its form and its content.” This deeply personal memoir is shared wholeheartedly with brutal honesty and incredible intimacy.

Mary L. Tabor reads from (Re)Making Love from Mary Tabor on Vimeo. Reviews: (Re)Making Love is a startling piece of work - startling in the simplicity of the sentence that sets off the chain of events ("I need to live alone") as well as in the graceful way Mary Tabor weaves in pop culture, recent events, complex philosophy, and deep emotion into her vignettes. She does this masterfully, and creates a world the reader at once cannot fathom and yet deeply understands (and perhaps more deeply, fears). As readers we travel through the story with her, cheering as she searches for what she wants and breaking each time she doesn't find it. I grow more and more attached to her story as I read, and even when I put it down I find myself remembering her passages. I think of her search and whether she will win love like in the Rom Coms she so adores. This is an honest and brave tale, and it is the very honesty of the work that makes me continue to cheer for her. Read this story, it will teach you more about yourself than you realize. Go to Forty-Three reader reviews to see what others are saying.

And here, for the fun of it, is Taylor Collins' TaylorSpeak on underwear and other advice


The Woman Who Never Cooked:
Connected Short Stories, Mid-List Press.  Second edition (Mary painted the still life on the cover): click here: Outer Banks Publishing group to BUY at discount! Also on Amazon

The Woman Who Never Cooked is Mary's collection of linked short stories. The secret of this book is that it is the story of one woman who hides inside the stories and is fully revealed through this tour through her life. Her publisher describes the book this way: Take a dizzying tour of life's betrayals in this tightly linked collection of stories. Rejected by a lover or a husband, having lost a parent, a sibling, some of the characters go a bit mad, make up an imaginary lover, are driven toward sex, toward adultery. All are obsessed with what can be hidden and what cannot because all have been betrayed. And all of them cook as antidote. But what if the woman hidden at the heart of this book discovers one day that she no longer can cook?
Winner 2004 Mid-List First Series Award for Short Fiction, publication April 2006.
Grand Prize, Santa Fe Writers Project 2000 Literary Awards, August 2000 (for a smaller group of the short stories "The Burglar" "Sine Die" and "To Swim?" : Read this story in The Woman Who Never Cooked
The book has also been chosen by the American Library Association and is available in libraries across the country.

“To get to know the heroines of Mary L. Tabor’s The Woman Who Never Cooked, you’ll have to head to the kitchen. Navigating family life, they savor foods that celebrate Jewish culture and identity, like the lemon meringue pie whose riddle of a recipe “The Woman Who Never Cooked” solves in her Talmudic musing, or the challah bread whose family recipe she discovers “under S for Sonya,” a fabled pogrom survivor. The women concoct meals to make peace with their pasts: a hidden pie that might spark infidelity, hot peppered fish to entice an alliance between an aunt and her motherless niece. In these still, witty stories, Tabor sets a rich table.” Image Journal “It’s the absences that Tabor relies upon—the subject too painful to broach, the person on the bus one sees each day but is afraid to approach—that make these stories stand out. The emotions beleaguering the characters are not secrets, but the ways they cope with the emptiness in their lives are well wrought, unique, and surprising. It’s definitely a challenging recipe for a writer’s debut, one that Mary Tabor accomplishes with the expertise of a more experienced master chef.” The Mid-American Review “There is a subtle humor here, and an innate wisdom about everyday life as women find solace in cooking, work, and chores. Revealed here are the hidden layers of lives that seem predictable but never are. Reading Tabor’s wry tales, one has the sense of entering the private lives of the women you see everyday on your way to work.” Booklist This book has an adult sense of wisdom earned through pain, a combination of compassion and narrowed, cold eye, and a clarity of understanding of sexuality I find unique. I loved reading about these women: grown-ups written well are rare. I found the collection richly made, unafraid, full of woundedness and strength. Frederick Busch Mary Tabor writes with astonishing grace, endless passion, and subtle humor. She moves fearlessly into the troubled hearts of her people to explore the territory of loss and betrayal with unparalleled fervor. She is a magician and an inventor, a master of form whose brilliant sleight of hand leaves the reader joyfully bedazzled. Through the power of her vision and the daring agility of her prose, Mary Tabor dances us to the edge of despair only to spin us tenderly toward the light and the radiant transcendence of love. Melanie Rae Thon Mary Tabor writes the “new” story—witty, edgy, discontent with shopworn wisdom, passionate about the minutiae that reveal the whole of our crooked character, impatient with the easy answer, and fiercely intolerant of the slop and indifference of writers unconcerned with a decidedly moral universe. Lee K. Abbott

Mike Czyzniewski on Story366 discusses "The Burglar"—and much more. See my post that links back to his his with gratitude.

Michael Johnson's review of second edition of The Woman Who Never Cooked

In addition to the awards listed below for individual short stories, three of the stories in the collection won the Grand Prize, Santa Fe Writers Project, 2000 Literary Award: "Sine Die" that also won The Prentice Hall Fiction Award, "The Burglar", and "To Swim" that also won The Sherwood Anderson fiction prize. 


"Deceptive Aria" Click ➡️ to get paperback or the Kindle version

"Dance," Love, Lifespan Vol 4: 
click to buy LOVE paperback, Kindle, ePub

   "The Suitcase" short story, 
Catamaran Literary Reader
Vol. 9, Issue 2: Summer 2021, Issue 33 Reading via Crowdcast  

Shortédition, Circuit #06, 

in the dispensers, click to read
➥ "School" poem, summer 2021

"Where Am I?" click to buy paperback  25 Miles From Here Pure Slush, August 2021 click to buy ePub or Mobi (Kindle compatible) 

"Trustship, Shrinkship, Friendship" Flash fiction click for a taste FrIeNdShiP Pure Slush, July 2021, buy the paperback by clicking FrIeNdShip paperback FrIeNdShiP ePub (all Apple devices) Mobi (Kindle compatible)

WINNER: creative-non-fiction essay contest to fight discrimination: click to read ➥"You Be the Judge"

"Worn to Weakness
Story Magazine, Issue 6, 2019
Richard Peabody, editor
Paycock Press, 2007

“A Conversation With Lore Segal: Thinking About Virtue”
Interview with Lore Segal, author of Shakespeare’s Kitchen, Her First American, et. al.,The Missouri Review, Vol. XXX, Number 4, 2007

Chautauqua Literary Journal, summer 2004

In Search of a Sleeve-Board” (essay)
Image, Issue 38, spring 2003; in special section on the artist and the community
Nominated January 2004 for Pushcart Prize XXIX: Best of the Small Presses
River City, Vol. 23 #2, summer 2003
Nominated January 2004 for Pushcart Prize XXIX: Best of the Small Presses
Image, Issue 36, fall 2002
Nominated in January 2003 for Pushcart Prize XXVIII: Best of the Small Presses by Pushcart Prize Contributing Editor Melanie Rae Thon
To Swim?
Mid-American Review, spring 2001, Vol. XXI, Number 2, pp. 42-56, Winner Sherwood Anderson Fiction Prize. Melanie Rae Thon, judge, said, "'To Swim?' evokes the dizzying confusion of one woman's struggle to make sense of her father's death, her adulterous dreams, her husband's lack of passion. With subtlety and grace, Mary L. Tabor reveals the most intimate betrayals of heart and body and spirit."
Chelsea, Vol. 67 (December 1999), pp. 153-169
Sine Die
Hayden’s Ferry Review, Vol. 25, fall-winter, 1999-2000. This short story in full won The Prentice Hall Fiction Award (Ron Carlson, judge). This story also won the Santa Fe Writers Project Grand Prize, along with "The Burglar" and "To Swim?"

American Literary Review, Vol. 10.1, 10th anniversary issue, spring 1999, pp. 59-79

Jewish Currents, Vol. 53, No. 11, December 1999, pp. 12-14
Honorable mention OSU 1998 Haidee Forsyth Burkhart Award in Creative Nonfiction

“Holy Days Begin in the Kitchen”
New York Jewish Week, September 6, 1996, p. 29

“My Mother’s Rugelach”
Washington Jewish Week, September 12, 1996, p. 48

“Emotions a Gift Candelabrum Evokes”
New York Jewish Week, September 18, 1987, "Other Voices" editorial page feature, p. 38