A strange, gawky dance between the past and the present, and between mundanity and insanity.


Two Irish brothers compete bitterly for the affections of a beautiful eco-terrorist.

Crude, self-entitled petty criminal Liam Caffrey needs a woman to complete his image of himself as a success. He sets his sights on Nuala Macree, who returned from Spain to their hometown of Lochard as a single mom to help an activist group save the town’s lake from a French water conglomerate. Liam’s socially naïve, intellectual brother Mel, whose recent spiritual crisis has led him to leave the monastery for home, has also latched on to Nuala as the radiant goddess who will fill the space that God has left. The brothers’ ineffective desperation, increasingly insane thoughts and bizarre behaviors in pursuit of Nuala, as well as the extreme antagonism they have toward each other, are described from inside their emotional spaces, caricatures standing in stark relief to Nuala’s graceful, noncommittal responses. Parkinson provides strange juxtapositions in this debut novel. There’s a voice and depiction of a traditional small town, as well as a working-class Irish life, that could easily be mistaken for something written in the 19th century, but certain details reveal a modern setting, like terrorism that consists of destroying electronic files or a party band that plays "Tainted Love." By the climax of the book, Liam’s move to impress Nuala with an open house party in his newly remodeled home leads to a surreal physical confrontation between the brothers, and the focus on the psychology of the obsessed pair suddenly expands into a broad, chaotic explosion of the whole small town’s anger and erotic energy in which even the lake itself gets a voice. The writing is overall a bit stilted and ungraceful, as if it is fighting with itself about whether it is philosophy or theater, pathos or satire. But in a way, this awkwardness suits the subject matter, and it’s unclear if this is literary defect or just unusual styling.

A strange, gawky dance between the past and the present, and between mundanity and insanity.

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2011

ISBN: 978-0983859611

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Cool Root Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2012

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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