The beautifully evoked jungles of southern Mexico are the setting for distinguished critic Guerard's eighth novel (Christine/Annette, 1985, etc.), a story that layers diaries and narratives from three separate time periods—1870, 1922, and the present—to tell of a fabulous Mayan ruin, Casas Grandes, and its nearby dopplegÑnger, a folly in the jungle called the Gran Hotel Balneario Chimalapa. Beginning in 1982 with the arrival of Tulane graduate student Eloise Deslonde, who is tracing the movements of the 19th-century adventuress Rosellen Maurepas for her thesis, ``The Liberated Woman in Antebellum and Postbellum New Orleans,'' the book plunges us into a world of interlocking stories of time-warped passions. We follow Rosellen from her first glimpse, as a teenager, of the dashing mercenary William Walker to her later attempt, in 1870, to determine once and for all whether Walker really died at the hands of a firing squad—or escaped to Casas Grandes. Charles Stanfield, a 20-year-old engineer, accompanies the bewitching Rosellen on her search. Hired to survey the site for a canal linking the Atlantic and the Pacific, Stanfield, instead of doing his job, falls into an idyll with Marita, an Indian girl, while Rosellen disappears among the haunted pyramids. Fifty years later, in 1922, Stanfield will return to the scene, drawn by advertisements for a 45-round bout featuring Jack Johnson, the dethroned black boxer. There, he will pass time with the boxer and his absurd retinue, including the erotic adventuress Monica Swift (based on the feminist poet Mina Loy). There, too, like Rosellen before him, he will disappear. And many years later, Eloise, busy unraveling the record of these lives, will almost vanish as well. For lovers of Mexico, then, a speculative biography of a place where, by paths only a novelist can reimagine, the figures of quite different epochs intersect and interact. At times bewildering and overly dense—like the jungle it evokes—and, in the end, much like the Grand Hotel Balneario itself: haunted, mysterious, beguiling.

Pub Date: June 1, 1996

ISBN: 1-880909-45-6

Page Count: 390

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1996

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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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