Sharp writing, a challenging mystery, and an exceedingly likable protagonist.



A debut novel focuses on a woman who suddenly discovers she is dying.

How would you spend the next 24 hours if you knew they were to be your last? When Phoenix “Finn” Helen Collins wakes up in an Albuquerque, New Mexico, hospital bed, she overhears two men speaking outside her room. They are discussing her impending death—“Twenty-four hours? Maybe less.” She doesn’t know how she got there or why she is dying. And nobody will give her the answers. There is only one thing to do: disconnect all the beeping wires and tubes, get out of bed, and find out what’s going on. She dresses in her blood-covered clothes and exits the hospital, snagging a taxi. In her jacket pocket, she finds her wallet, which contains her driver’s license. She gives the cab driver the address on her license. Her name is listed on the apartment directory, together with someone named Cummings: “Oh, whoa, Walt Cummings. Of course.”  Little pieces of memory begin to jump in and out. She used to be with Matt Bailerg until he found her in bed with Walt. There’s so much to learn and so many amends to make—and so little time. She heads to her car but it won’t start. Enter Gabriel, the sexy, helpful stranger who will keep showing up whenever Finn needs him most. Readers will struggle along with Finn as she tries to make sense of what is happening to her. Through Bertaud’s articulate, edgy prose, Finn shines as the charming narrator of her own madcap journey—funny, sarcastic, frightened, tough, and tender. “I want to know the reason,” she tells readers, referring to her terminal condition. “I need to know. It doesn’t have to be the whole story; a brief summary would suffice.” Disjointed memories move the mind-bending, baffling, and delightful story back and forth between past and present. The present is filled with a plethora of complicated events that blur the line between fantasy and reality. The pieces never quite fit together; everything is slightly askew. But hang on until the end. The final twist is worth the chaotic ride.

Sharp writing, a challenging mystery, and an exceedingly likable protagonist.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73286-560-0

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2018

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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...


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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