A haunting book from a novelist (Loving Pedro Infant, 2001, etc.) who inspires us to appreciate what we have before it is...

THE KING AND QUEEN OF COMEZÓN

Chávez's new novel is the sprawling tale of Comezóna New Mexico border town. The book is anchored by the aging master of ceremonies of the town's yearly fiesta, Arnulfo Olivárez, as he regretfully looks back on his life.

Longing, the author’s  translation of “comezón,” is at the center of this book and all its characters. Longing for the local priest, El Padre Manolito (Juliana Olivárez); longing for the crippled Juliana, the woman he cannot have (El Padre Manolito); longing for the family she knows is her right (Juliana's sister, Lucinda Olivárez); longing for peace from his obsession with the illegals he helped deport to Mexico (Rey Suárez the bar owner); and longing for her husband’s attention (Emilia Olivárez). Everyone longs for love and for the body they desire—whether that body be their own full and healthy again or the body of a lover. “What was he doing here…besides longing for love?” asks El Padre Manolito. Indeed, whose longings will be satisfied and whose will go unrequited becomes the central drama of the novel. And when Emilia suffers a near-fatal stroke, it sets off a chain of events that forces the characters, especially her husband, Arnulfo, to reconsider what they truly desire. Told in the close third person, the narrative shifts among the points of view of all the characters. While the rotating perspective does create some beautiful moments and reveal some delicious ironies, at times the story slows when information is repeated from multiple perspectives without adding further depth. But if you have a penchant for winding narratives in which the drama of the story takes place within the Proustian world of memory, this is the book for you. 

A haunting book from a novelist (Loving Pedro Infant, 2001, etc.) who inspires us to appreciate what we have before it is gone.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8061-4483-2

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Univ. of Oklahoma

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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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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