A sentimental, contemporary women’s novel with a retro vibe that’s engaging despite its flaws.

LAST THINGS

Newspaper journalist and novelist Ferrendelli (An Invincible Summer, 2015, etc.) tells the story of a troubled big-city reporter who starts over in a small town.

Bridgette Connor of the Reporter-Herald in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is emotionally spent when she flees the state, haunted by the suicide of one of her exposé subjects and heartbroken over her own decision to terminate her pregnancy. She has no intention of stopping in Windsor, Kentucky, until an automobile accident strands her there. She stumbles, injured, into the Sunrise Diner, where Alexis Parker, the proprietor, helps her to find medical help and gives her a place to stay. The two immediately hit it off, and Bridgette starts a new life in Windsor with Alexis; her daughter, Eden, who has various special needs; and her African-American housekeeper, nanny, and friend, Eda Mae Fletcher. After two false starts at resuming her journalism career, Bridgette realizes that she’s meant to work at the diner, and after providing Alexis with emergency financial assistance, she becomes her business partner. The two women confront myriad challenges together but are still unprepared for a devastating crisis. Later, Alexis must act when it seems that Eden’s biological father, Cal, is determined to do what’s worst for his daughter. This novel is largely an emotionally satisfying read, reminiscent at times of Fannie Flagg’s 1987 novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. However, the author often has Bridgette and Alexis proclaim their deep, abiding friendship for each other in dialogue rather than simply showing it in action. One secondary character, postal employee Blanche Ashby, provides comic relief and is more fully developed than some of the other players; Eda Mae, in particular, feels like a throwback, stock character of early- to mid-20th-century literature. Pragmatic readers may also wonder how Bridgette could indefinitely stay on in Windsor after initially intending to seek refuge there for just one night.

A sentimental, contemporary women’s novel with a retro vibe that’s engaging despite its flaws.

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5406-8247-5

Page Count: 324

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2017

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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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