A delightful and humorous wish-fulfillment tale about interspecies bonding, engaging until the very end.

The Boy and the Dolphin

A debut novel follows an orphan living in a Bahamas resort who aids a baby dolphin.

Toby Matthias was orphaned at age 11, having lost his parents in a 1954 plane crash. Now he resides with his grandparents Vernon, aka Pop, and Irene, helping them run their Bahamian Out Island resort on the fictitious Piper Cay and commuting to school on the island of Nassau. He spends his free time learning how to sail, fish, and run his grandfather’s small power launch. What Toby lacks, living on an isolated island, is a close friend. That’s about to change. It is March 1957, and a baby bottlenose dolphin is jumping and emitting frantic clicks and cries at the end of the island’s garbage pier. Toby grabs his knife and swims over to investigate the commotion. The calf’s mother is entangled in fishing nets and unable to surface for air. Toby cuts the nets and frees the mother, earning the gratitude, and gradually the love, of the calf he names Phinney. In a fanciful idyll, Schmidt traces their friendship over the course of 12 years, as boy and dolphin play together and then move into adulthood, separating and reconnecting periodically. Readers follow Phinney as she travels with her pod and Toby when he attends school on the mainland, joins the Navy, and becomes an aircraft carrier pilot in Vietnam. Schmidt employs a split point of view approach, alternating between Toby’s perspective and Phinney’s, resulting in two well-developed characters. The book is filled with charming vignettes of their interactions, as when Phinney worries because Toby has switched from free diving to using scuba equipment: she knows the human cannot possibly stay underwater long. The author’s own passion for the sea and extensive sailing experience add a knowledgeable extra dimension that brings readers right into the enticing water. Despite Schmidt’s claim that he possesses no “special” knowledge of dolphins, his detailed descriptions of their physiology and cooperative social behavior remain informative and compelling. This joyful, imaginative fantasy feels so real that readers should willingly suspend their disbelief for the sheer pleasure of the ride.

A delightful and humorous wish-fulfillment tale about interspecies bonding, engaging until the very end.

Pub Date: April 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9975010-1-8

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Landslide Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2016

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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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