A sweet narrative about self-actualization.


When an aspiring author begins horseback-riding lessons, she discovers her true passion in Andrews’ (Saints in the City, 2008, etc.) novel.

Clarissa “Claire” Stamos is saddled with a stale marriage and an unfulfilling job at her father’s hardware store, but writing is her main joy. When inspiration for a Western romance screenplay strikes, she takes riding lessons at a nearby barn for research. Although her newfound fascination with horses alienates her husband, George, she keeps at it, investing in a sweet-tempered, 18-year-old appendix quarter horse named Sonny, who serves as the novel’s narrator. Claire experiences the ups and downs of riding, from her first fall to the complicated social dynamics at Crown Ridge, where Sonny is boarded. Meanwhile, the divide between the married couple grows; Claire suspects that George is using his weekly wine club to commit infidelity: “When George…gives her a kiss, there’s wine on his breath. She doesn’t know the vintage or the provenance, but she knows betrayal when she tastes it.” She finds her own temptation in Sebastian Bergalo, a top-notch, handsome Argentinian trainer at Crown Ridge. She initially thinks that he’s an arrogant snob, but his admiration for her can-do spirit brings them closer. As Claire falls deeper in love with the world of horses, her confidence blooms. But when George is offered a job in Paris, he gives her an ultimatum: either she stops riding or he leaves. Andrews hits the mark in using the traumas of the primary characters to create stories of healing. Claire, for example, has long suppressed a history of sexual abuse; Sonny is haunted by memories of a violent former owner; and Sebastian has his own secrets beneath his confident exterior. The heavy use of equestrian terminology may grow tiresome to readers unfamiliar with the mechanics of riding (“Apply your inside leg at the girth and hold him in with your outside leg”), but it’s outweighed by the grounded, almost spiritual tone of Sonny’s narration: “She falls asleep where she is as the moon rises and remnants of raindrops glint on the glass panels above, just like the grass where I graze glistens under moonlight.”

A sweet narrative about self-actualization.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-93662-7

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Flying Chestnut Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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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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