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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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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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