Many readers have seen this dusty, bleak future before, but a poignant journey with a tenacious protagonist exudes freshness.

Soledad

From the Dark Republic series , Vol. 1

In this dystopian thriller, a woman traverses a barren, treacherous wasteland in search of the only man with answers to her parents’ fate.

Soledad “Sol” Paz is a slave in the new world. Freelance traders took her from her family as a teen and sold her to Ernesto “Flaco” Guzmán. Guzmán’s a self-proclaimed revolutionary, leading an army against the Bullocks, who control much of the gas territory in Texas. Now a republic, Texas seceded from the United States when its natural gas replaced oil as a valuable commodity. The global economic collapse subsequently crushed the prospering republic, allowing for the Bullocks to seize power. With many citizens falling into poverty, Sol may be better off with Guzmán, even if he’s using her ability for his own benefit. She’s a reader, who, after chewing the weedy plant hierba, has heightened perception and can discern whether someone’s lying. But everything changes when she spots Abner Cunningham, her father’s apprentice whom Sol believed freelancers murdered along with her parents. Convinced they likewise survived, Sol escapes her camp with help from her friend Lela and smitten Rafa to track Abner. Their ultimate destination is Dallas, essentially the Bullocks’ capital, but they’ll have to brave demented religious zealots and the Bullocks’ technology, including attack drones, all with the hope that Sol will find her parents alive. The apocalyptic setting supplies a volatile climate, as Sol and company have no idea what to expect in the “unpoliced wastelands.” But Young (Juarez Square and Other Stories, 2015, etc.) intensifies his tale by making the good and bad guys nearly indistinguishable. Sol’s definitely a sympathetic protagonist, but Guzmán isn’t necessarily a villain. Lela, for one, sees him as her savior, rescuing her from the male-dominated boxing circuit, where she had no option but to succumb to men’s loathsome desires. At the same time, the cultist Fundies are unmistakably evil and a genuine threat to Sol, et. al. Dallas, as it turns out, is a place of revelation for Sol, who learns about her parents while fully realizing her potent gift, capable of seeing much more in others than simple lies.

Many readers have seen this dusty, bleak future before, but a poignant journey with a tenacious protagonist exudes freshness.

Pub Date: April 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9908696-3-4

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Concordia Publishing House

Review Posted Online: May 9, 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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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