A thoroughly readable story about acceptance, forgiveness, and redemption.

The Father-Daughter Club

In Ragsdale’s (Tuesday’s Socks, 2014) second novel, a tightknit father and daughter face life-changing challenges that threaten the stability of their relationship.

David and Elizabeth Fredericks settle into their swanky hotel in Athens, Greece, as they begin a month’s vacation in Europe to revel in David’s new status as a retiree. They also have an unspoken hope that the trip will help strengthen their marriage, which was once nearly destroyed by David’s affair with a co-worker. Kate, their only child, is 30 years old and has always had a much tighter bond with her father, which has sometimes left Elizabeth feeling distant and isolated. On the second day of their vacation, Kate flies in from Edinburgh, Scotland, unannounced, to shakily announce that she’s happily in love with a woman. In an unexpected plot turn, Elizabeth reacts calmly, seeing a bright silver lining in the news: the potential for forging new bonds with her daughter. Her father, however, alternates between quiet seething and downright cruelty. Later, when Elizabeth takes day trips to spend more time with Kate and her partner, Charlotte, David clumsily struggles with anger, embarrassment, jealousy, and guilt. No longer is his affair coming between him and his wife; now their daughter is. When tragedy strikes, a change in the family dynamic causes even more complications. In one of many emotionally rich scenes, David drives to Edinburgh alone and locates Charlotte’s bakery, intent on confronting her and “telling her to leave his precious daughter the hell alone.” The author beautifully depicts his embarrassment and ineptitude as he bumbles through his purchase of two scones, as well as Charlotte’s dawning realization of his identity. The novel’s flowing dialogue prompts quick page turning, as it’s at once complex and believable. The descriptions of various geographic locales are as sumptuous and lyrical as a travelogue: “Fragrant lemongrass and lush ferns draped themselves over the stairs’ time-softened edges. Lush vines crept up trellises and wove themselves over arbors as hundreds of gold lights twinkled from amidst the green leaves, warming the walkways beneath.” Along the way, Ragsdale masterfully explores the characters’ emotions and the motivations behind their shifting alliances.

A thoroughly readable story about acceptance, forgiveness, and redemption.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0990747833

Page Count: 334

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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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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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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