A poignant story of loss, love and family.

WILLOW VALE

Two people broken by World War I look to start over and take refuge in each other in this unique historical romance.

Williams’ debut tells the story of Francesca Sittoni, an Austrian turned Italian by the war, who immigrates to America with her husband, Cesare. He paid a dowry to Francesca’s father for the marriage, but he is unloving toward Francesca and her young daughter from her first marriage, Elena. When Cesare dies working in a coal mine, Francesca is understandably determined to stay in America since her family is too poor to care for her and Elena should they return to northern Italy. She answers an ad for a housekeeper on Kent Reed’s ranch in Willow Valley, Wyo. Despite Francesca’s pregnancy and child in tow, Kent agrees to hire her for one year, and he gets much more than he ever expected or wanted. As they raise Elena together amid hardships, they form a strong bond; affection inevitably develops between them. Francesca and Kent’s equally stubborn attitudes keep them apart romantically, even though they are forced to live in close quarters in the small house they share. The characters come from extremely different backgrounds, but as Williams skillfully weaves their lives together, they begin to see that they have much more in common than they originally believed. Kent is resistant to officially making Francesca and Elena his family; he feels unworthy and has struggled with emasculation after he was wounded in the war and his wife left him. Francesca thinks Kent only sees her as a live-in maid and cook—a poor Tyrolean woman set in the ways of the old country. It takes the neighbors’ help for them to see the life they have already created together and how much they care for one another. Williams writes with familiarity, easily transporting the reader back to the 1920s. Despite the technological, economical and social differences between then and now, the heart of the story is timeless. Beautiful imagery accentuates the compelling narrative that depicts an era gone but not forgotten.

A poignant story of loss, love and family.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0982557419

Page Count: 162

Publisher: Jargon Media

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2012

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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

FLY AWAY

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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