A spirited, often comical courtroom tale brimming with genuine characters.


In this dramedy, a legal secretary tackles a friend’s personal injury case, which requires posing as a lawyer—her dead boss.

Gertie Chase and Dorothy “Dot” Swayne have been working for Louise Barbour for nearly two decades when the Texas attorney suddenly dies at her desk. Louise’s indolent son, Clarence, who wants the building to open a vape shop, demands the private practice’s files be farmed out to other lawyers. But one file catches Gertie’s eye: a personal injury case involving her longtime friend Nelda Fay Blatchford. Nelda’s husband, Clifford, had developed cancer, which a doctor determined was from exposure to asbestos at work. As Louise apparently neglected the matter and Clifford has since died, Gertie decides to see the case through, with help from Dot and their co-worker/friend Guadalupe “Lupe” Maria Sylvia-Sotomayor. Gertie will just have to take on the role of Louise, but only until she can reach a settlement. When Clifford’s ex-boss Waite Morrison doesn’t show up to the mediation and his attorney, Alexander Shiras, makes a lowball offer, Gertie and Nelda opt for a trial. Having picked up skills by assisting Louise, Gertie can hold her own in the ensuing courtroom battle, provided no one learns her true identity. Clary (Unfinished Business, 2016, etc.) tactfully deals with serious subjects. Gertie worries about her husband, Jack, who experiences frequent pain from Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam, and Nelda, who’s Creole, is no stranger to racism (likely the reason Louise abandoned her case). But there’s also humor in abundance. An example—and the book’s highlight—is when Gertie, whose car is blocking Shiras’ at the mediation, feigns a prolonged search for her keys. The author’s flair for rapid-fire dialogue leads to bustling courtroom scenes, which monopolize the novel’s latter half. These scenes furthermore distinguish the amiable heroine (small-town Gertie easily connects with prospective jurors) from antagonistic Shiras, who constantly objects and interrupts witnesses he’s questioning on the stand.

A spirited, often comical courtroom tale brimming with genuine characters.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5320-5382-5

Page Count: 285

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2018

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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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