Schmitt’s three complex stories are beautifully translated and masterfully written.

THREE WOMEN IN A MIRROR

Schmitt (Concerto to the Memory of an Angel, 2011, etc.) writes movingly about three women, divided by time and distance, whose lives connect when they attempt to break free of expectations imposed by society.

Displaying empathy for women and the constraints they face simply because they’re born in a certain era, the author delivers three fascinating, multilayered stories that merge in an unusual way. Young, pure Anne lives in Bruges at a time when most eligible young men are off fighting in the Crusades. Other girls envy her impending marriage to a handsome young man, but when a mirror splinters on the floor, Anne escapes her aunt’s home and her unwanted engagement and takes refuge in the woods. There, she finds comfort and companionship surrounded by nature. Labeled as a chosen one, Anne eventually travels with a trusted monk to a convent, where the poetry she writes is misinterpreted and her faith is questioned, but she remains resolute in her beliefs. Years later, in early-20th-century Vienna, another young woman seeks answers to her own questions. Hanna is married to a loving nobleman who adores her, but her unhappiness manifests itself in inexplicable actions and compulsive behavior. Seeking understanding of her despair, she turns to psychoanalysis and one of Sigmund Freud’s disciples. In present-day Hollywood, a third young woman buries her pain in sex, drugs and alcohol. Anny is a beautiful, brilliant actress who’s on a self-destructive course as she and the sycophants who surround her pursue the almighty dollar, the ultimate symbol of success in the movie industry. But when she crosses paths with a hospital employee, a character actress and an acting role with substance, Anny’s life begins to take on new meaning. Each woman’s journey is unique and painful, yet enchantingly sweet, as she works toward self-realization and rejects conformity.

Schmitt’s three complex stories are beautifully translated and masterfully written.

Pub Date: July 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-60945-122-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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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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