An uneven collection, but one with much feeling and moments of poetic insight.

ALPHA MARTIN AND OMEGA STEED

A retired professor shares his reflections on life in this collection of short pieces in various genres including fiction, memoir, photography, and poetry.

In his eclectic debut, Windisch, a retired professor of psychology and counseling, touches on many subjects: “sadness and gladness and change and beauty and paradox. And choosing.” Whatever their genre, the sections all share similar themes, as well as the author’s distinctive voice. The title story is described as science fiction but has few of the familiar hallmarks of the genre, other than that it’s set in the future, starting on June 13, 2033. The narrative tracks the development of Alpha, a newly conceived child, and the thoughts of her great-grandfather, Dr. Omega Steed, nicknamed “Ohmee.” Ohmee, like the author, is a retired professor of psychology and counseling; he also has “a huge round belly” and loves beauty and mysticism. He’s delighted to learn that Mary, his granddaughter, is pregnant. Sometimes Ohmee dreams of death—a dark owl he calls “Mort,” who merely hoots at Ohmee’s searching questions. When Ohmee’s doctor tells him that he’s dying, he feels both a longing for release and anguish that his death will cause suffering to loved ones. Meanwhile, Alpha grows and dreams—of previous lives, of her mother’s childhood, and of Ohmee enjoying an autumn day. Sitting in his “most sacred” spot above the Green River Gorge, Ohmee finally finds peace and learns his great-granddaughter will soon be born. As Ohmee dies, Alpha arrives: “He smiled at her beginning. She smiled at his. They blew kisses across the ether.” The writing is occasionally broad or clumsy, as when the doctor is identified as “Ima Mortal II (or I’m a mortal too).” But the story can also be subtle and tender; the owl of death, for example, is a powerful image. “Paradox and Choosing: Creative Nonfiction” aims to help readers choose “how you want to live” through four paradoxes, although these are so confusingly phrased that it’s hard to see how they meet this definition. For example, “Paradox 2” reads: “We, You, I, judge EVERYTHING, all the time, but judgment separates. At the same time, there is non-judgment, love, and beauty, and connection.” If it’s possible to be nonjudgmental, then it’s untrue to say that people judge all the time; this is a manufactured paradox, if it is one at all. Windisch writes that “love and compassion” are the opposite of “judgment, hate, fear,” but opposites don’t constitute a paradox, unless they’re mutually exclusive. The ensuing discussions don’t clarify these contradictions, but they do underscore Windisch’s values regarding beauty, humor, mysticism, kindness, and connection. Three photograph and poetry combinations follow; the images are well-composed and compassionate, capturing telling moments, and the poems are a bit sprawling but heartfelt. However, the book as a whole would have benefited from a stronger edit to clean up some distracting errors (“doesn’t knows it”; “80 organ all woven together”; “Who, do you judge?”).

An uneven collection, but one with much feeling and moments of poetic insight.

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-79017-343-3

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

more