A solidly entertaining, feminist tale that’s also well-suited for medical-history buffs.

JOSEPHINE'S DAUGHTER

From the Golden City series , Vol. 5

In this fifth novel in Michaels’ (The Price of Compassion, 2018, etc.) Golden City series, set in 19th-century San Francisco, an intrepid young woman rebels against her parents and refuses to conform to high society’s expectations.

The story opens in 1893 at the home of young Katherine “Kit” Firestone as she and her friends, Cecily Anders and Bea Marshall, play in a tree while their parents socialize. From up in the branches, the girls overhear Cecily’s father and Bea’s mother discussing an extramarital affair. The story quickly jumps five years forward, when 18-year-old Kit allows a secret courtship to turn physical. She soon realizes that her feelings for the young man, Easton Challis, are fleeting. She agonizes over how to let him down easy, but then she’s shocked to learn that he’s proposed to her old friend Cecily. Worse yet, it appears that Easton has already impregnated Cecily and infected her with syphilis. (He’d used a prophylactic with Kit.) As Kit attempts to nurse Cecily back to health, her desire to help her friend sparks a passion for practicing medicine and protecting women’s rights. The narrative shifts back in time repeatedly to show Kit’s mother, Josephine, as a young woman. Due to tragedies in her youth, Josephine also found solace in helping female friends and championing feminism. Rather than recognizing their mutual activist spirits, Kit and her mother only butt heads. Indeed, readers are likely to wonder whether it’s possible for Kit and Josephine to stop arguing long enough to realize their similarities and use their mutual passions productively. Still, the novel’s fast-paced narrative and engaging dialogue will draw readers in from the start. It’s full of intriguing details about San Francisco near the turn of the last century, and it also provides engaging information about the evolution of medicine—and women’s health care, in particular. There are a few too many distracting subplots and tangents, and the book might have fared better if it were split into multiple volumes. Even so, the various threads remain compelling, and the novel as a whole provides a titillating journey through history. 

A solidly entertaining, feminist tale that’s also well-suited for medical-history buffs.

Pub Date: March 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9975201-2-5

Page Count: 395

Publisher: Red Trumpet Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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