SECOND CHANCES

In characteristic hushed, mannered, pallid style, Adams (Superior Women, 1984, etc.) now takes on the hopes, fears, losses, and (illusory) gains of six affluent old ("very, very old") friends entering the "false spring" of early advanced age in a comfortable, featureless, falsely vernal California enclave called San Sebastian. Of the six, Dudley, a journalist, and Edward, a gay poet who stopped producing poems 15 years ago, have known each other longest: grew up in Boston and met before each met the love of a lifetime, whom both now fear will leave them—Dudley because husband Sam has lost the power to palm and is growing restless, as in the old days; Edward because his younger (50) lover Freddie has newly become a gay-rights activist and is making loads of handsome acquaintances in San Francisco marches. Celeste, the recent widow of handsome, powerful ex-reporter Charles, fears loneliness and disease; and her friends fear for her, because site has token up with a young (50) Charles-lookalike named Bill, whom no one has met but of whom everyone is suspicious. Polly, a lover of Charles' before Celeste met him in the 50's, has taken to secreting hoards of cash and delivering them by night to poor Mexican families on the outskirts of San Sebastian, and now she's taken one of the Mexicans, a young (50) mechanic, as her lover, meanwhile, she fears a recurrence of cancer. Into this wan drama enters pale Sara, young (40) niece of Celeste, whose mother has died and whose lifetime causes (pacifism, rights of the poor) have lost luster, and so who involves herself in the old folks' problems, mostly to good effect (though Sam dies and Freddy does leave Edward); later, she finds the love of her lifetime in the form of an ex-college boyfriend, and settles into a period all the San Sebastian crowd look back on nostalgically: yes, middle age. Artsy, cluttered with digressions and mannered speech, but still hinting at the tragic ironies involved in reflecting on and trying to look forward to lives already spent.

Pub Date: April 12, 1988

ISBN: 0671028499

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1988

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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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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

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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