Intriguing wartime tale well-told and cleverly plotted in an authentic historical setting.

A Tale of Life & War

A college student learns respect from a military veteran in author Morin’s debut novel.

At the University of Maine at Orono, procrastinating senior Matthew Switzer struggles to write a paper on the American GI experience in Europe. Michelle Kessler, an attractive coed, suggests he meet with her grandfather Henry “Hank” Mitchell, a former lieutenant and fighter pilot in the Army Air Forces during World War II. Initially, Matt asks some rather inappropriate questions—How many Germans did you kill? How many of your friends were killed in combat? What was it like to see your friends die?—that offend Hank: “This isn’t research,” he says, “it’s just plain disrespectful, morbid curiosity from a child who has no more concept of that time period than a garden slug!” After admonishing Matt, Hank tells of his participation in a top-secret mission in May 1944, one that took him over the English Channel into occupied France to destroy enemy targets, including a Nazi bunker. Hank and his fellow recruits had doubts about the poorly conceived mission; crew members weren’t even allowed escape kits in case they were stranded behind enemy lines. After crashing, Hank was welcomed by kindly French farmers, the Tessiers, who hid him from the Germans in Jolieville, Normandy. Eventually, Hank was captured and interrogated by SS officer Steinert, a self-declared British double agent who facilitated Hank’s escape into hiding with the LeBlanc family: lovely Pauline and her three brothers, all dedicated members of the French Resistance. As the weeks passed, Pauline and Hank grew closer, but he distrusted Steinert, who pumped him for details about the Allied invasion. This stirring wartime account of the impending D-Day features solid dialogue and careful plotting, an exciting air battle sequence, and effective use of period detail, as with, in a pivotal scene, a phonograph loudly playing “The Flying Dutchman” by Richard Wagner, a favorite composer of the Third Reich. Matt’s pre-graduation jitters as he moves from disrespect to admiration provide an entree to the past. But this is Hank’s story, tangled as it was with Steinert’s, whose psyche was split by conflicting loyalties. As sole survivor of a top-secret military mission, Hank found himself in the unenviable position of being distrusted by the Allies, an unfortunate coda for his sacrifice and service.

Intriguing wartime tale well-told and cleverly plotted in an authentic historical setting.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-63381-006-8

Page Count: 571

Publisher: Maine Authors Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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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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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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