Affecting, but not engaging enough for its length.

Joshua Tree Genesis

In this novel, a woman deals with the death of a friend, an unsatisfying marriage, cross-country moves, single motherhood and a new love as she tries to build a life of her own.

Judy, mother of two young children and wife of Tony, a demanding Mexican doctor, enters a tailspin after the climbing death of a friend during a day at Joshua Tree National Park. Did he commit suicide? Could she have helped him if she’d taken the time to talk? The thought that she somehow failed him leads her to reconsider her life, agonizing over the deficiencies of a marriage that has never been ideal. Her tears push Judy farther away from Tony, whose machismo demands a smiling, obedient wife, and even leads to an act of marital rape. Claiming to be taking the children on a trip to Tennessee to visit the parents Judy rarely sees, she’s actually leaving Tony—which also means giving up the friends who have been her support. Back in the South, she must finally confront the death of her younger brother years ago, her fraught relationship with her mother, her divorce from Tony and subsequent financial worries, and the possibility of a new life with Alex, an engineer dealing with his own issues. While Judy can be compelling, her constant introspection often becomes tedious. For what is a fairly conventional story of a woman finding herself over a period of 10 only occasionally eventful years, readers may tire of so much teeth gnashing and rehashing of the past. The biblical references—the book’s parts are called “Genesis,” “Exodus,” “Song of Solomon” and “Revelation”—seem to be at odds with the repeated mention of Judy’s loss of faith. Alex’s breakdown in Hawaii comes out of nowhere, and his emotional problems disappear just as quickly. In the slow middle parts, more showing rather than telling would break up lengthy paragraphs and help make the story read less like a disguised memoir.

Affecting, but not engaging enough for its length.

Pub Date: March 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-1481952712

Page Count: 548

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2013

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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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