An engrossing tale of survival and redemption in the Pacific Northwest.

SUGAR BIRDS

In this novel, the lives of two girls intersect in the woods of Washington state.

Ten-year-old Agate “Aggie” Hayes loves nothing more than climbing the massive fir trees that stand near her family’s home and sketching the bird nests she finds there. But her mother has instructed the girl to remain on the ground—climbing is too dangerous—and Aggie is wary of tempting her unstable parent’s anger. Sulking over a recent punishment, Aggie lights a small campfire that unintentionally torches the woods by her family’s cabin and burns it to the ground. Believing her parents dead in the blaze, Aggie flees into the wilderness, afraid of what might happen if she’s blamed for the crime. Meanwhile, 16-year-old Celia Burke is left by her father at her grandmother’s house for an indeterminate amount of time, far away from her friends back in Houston. She plans to skip town at the first opportunity, but when she hears of the fire at the Hayes home—and the fact that the daughter, Aggie, is missing—she can’t help but get invested. (Particularly after getting a peek at one of the other searchers, the handsome Cabot Dulcie.) As Aggie tries to stay alive and Celia attempts to find her, their stories become increasingly intertwined. Bostrom’s prose is propulsive and detailed, as here where Aggie cleans up after a scavenged lunch to avoid detection: “Rousing, she poured the rest of her seed into the bottle with the milk, pushed the waxy lid back into place, and scattered duff over her makeshift kitchen to erase it. No walkers or riders or dogs would stumble over her.” Aggie is a wonderfully magnetic character: a scrappy, stubborn preteen whose father has taught her to survive off the land. Celia balances out the tale with her suburban angst and sarcasm, but the supporting characters are equally strong, including the teenager’s bird biologist grandmother and Aggie’s autistic brother, Burnaby. The book contains an unexpected villain as well, who provides some added danger to the mix. While not always completely believable, the story is a true page-turner all the way to the end.

An engrossing tale of survival and redemption in the Pacific Northwest.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64742-068-0

Page Count: 328

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2021

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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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