An intriguing, heartwarming tale of family and faith.

Hidden Star

In the midst of a family crisis, a young mother must come to grips with her past when she discovers her surprising heritage.

In this unusual novel, Brown (Come and Get It! The Saga of Western Dinnerware, 2010, etc.) tells the story of Rachel Martinez Ortega, a wife and mother in the small New Mexican community of Estrella. Between running her own diner, watching over her two sons, and caring for her father-in-law, Héctor, Rachel has her hands full—and her husband, Gerry, is no help at all. Everything comes to a head when the Ortega family is ordered to move out of their longtime family home to make room for a new highway. But Ángel, the rebellious older son, is determined not to move and runs away from home instead. He’s accompanied by his younger brother, Juan, desperate not to be left behind. In the midst of this chaos, Rachel discovers some hidden family heirlooms, a set of candlesticks and a Hebrew Bible that dates back to the mid 16th century. After conferring with Father Domingo Nunez and handsome policeman Jose Flores, Rachel is shocked to realize that these treasures mean that her family is Jewish—specifically, conversos, or Jews of Spanish origin who hid their heritage while avoiding persecution. Now, with her children missing, her marriage foundering, and her entire family history coming into question, Rachel must trust in her newfound faith to help her overcome her difficulties. Brown weaves a vivid, accessible story here that jumps between the present and the past to illuminate the tale of Rachel’s Jewish ancestors. The characters are fully drawn and engaging as they grapple with both abstract questions of faith and urgent matters of life and death. Some passages lack subtlety; there are a few too many lines like “She could feel it, a connection way beyond anything she’d felt before.” And the narrative offers a few flashbacks that are a bit confusing when introducing new characters. But on the whole, this novel is a well-told account that sheds light on a community and a story that is all too rarely told.

 An intriguing, heartwarming tale of family and faith.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4602-7577-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2016

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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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