Inspired, playful storytelling from one of our most consistently original (and impish) novelists (Ekaterina, 1993, etc.), who now returns to his Ozark version of Shangri-la—the village of Stay More, a place hard to find but infinitely harder to leave. Harington's series of novels about this fictional Arkansas community (The Choiring of the Trees, 1991, etc.) and its eccentric population (``Stay Morons'') has been distinguished by an idiosyncratic blend of lovingly rendered detail (on the language, beliefs, and history of southern mountain life) and wild fantasy. This latest installment, a history of the complex love life and remarkable medical achievements of Doc Colvin Swain, Stay More's ``dreaming Doctor,'' is no different: The title derives from an incident in which a chaste young woman, fleeing an unwanted suitor, is rumored to have turned herself into a butterfly, or a flower, to escape. While the bawdy record of Swain's affairs is at the heart of Harington's crowded, exuberant story, we also get a robust portrait of the doctor's special gifts, his patients, and his times (from the end of the 19th century to the 1950s). Apprenticed as a young boy to a hill doctor, he learns to use both a wide range of herbal remedies and conventional cures. But what really sets him apart is his trancelike ability to visit his patients at night, in their dreams, and to treat them successfully on some nocturnal astral plane. The most painful irony of Swain's career is that beautiful, beloved Tenny (Tennessee), the true love of his life, is the one patient he can't save. She dies, horribly, of tuberculosis. But, this being Stay More, she lingers on as a spirit, watching over Doc, waiting for him. Such material would evaporate in the hands of a lesser novelist. But Harington, an ingenious, wise storyteller and a sly stylist, able to catch the tang and vigor of the spoken word, makes Doc and the other inhabitants of Stay More seem as real as the mountains they inhabit—and also as mysteriously timeless.

Pub Date: May 10, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100164-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1996

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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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