An engaging middle-grade tale about the power of love and letting go.

FLY AWAY FREE

A bird in danger leads a woman to reminisce about the geese she tended as a girl.

In this posthumously published debut middle-grade novel, Coppola introduces readers to Tessie Farrell, an adult who lives in Florida. When she rescues an injured osprey and goes after the boys who harassed and abducted the bird’s relatives, Tessie reawakens memories of her childhood in 1950s upstate New York. At 9 years old, Tessie is sensitive about having been adopted and has an uneasy relationship with most of her classmates, particularly mean girl Sharon Grand. A slow-burning friendship with librarian and ornithologist Maudie Carrol begins to soften Tessie’s sharp edges (“Instead of criticizing or bossing me, she simply explained why things were”), and caring for a pair of abandoned geese finally gives her a sense of purpose. The geese, Wilbur and Orville, are the subject of Tessie’s science project. Taking care of them allows her to excel in a classroom where she often feels overlooked and to understand the motivations of adoptive parents like her own. The story is a quiet one, focused on Tessie’s internal development rather than a dramatic plot. Coppola has a keen eye for the passion of childhood friendships (“I loved and trusted her so much that if she had told me Santa Claus was real, I would have believed in him again”) and the subtle indignities and joys of being 9 (“In place of friends, I had imagination, and I created one-character plays in which I gave energetic and highly emotional performances, lacking only an audience”). Tessie is a prickly and self-contained character, but an endearing one, who allows readers to understand her conflicts and growth in detail. The prose could have benefited from additional editing, particularly the several points at which the first-person narration inadvertently switches to third-person. But there are also simple but elegant turns of phrase (“Spring comes like a shy bride in Upstate New York”) that make for enjoyable reading and a satisfying story.

An engaging middle-grade tale about the power of love and letting go.

Pub Date: July 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4990-4915-2

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Page Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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