An inviting account of one man’s ambivalence toward his own faith and occupation.

FOY

ON THE ROAD TO LOST

A literary novel follows a conflicted preacher.

Foy Davis, a Baptist minister who has grown up in Texas, decides in 2005 that he will no longer be a pastor. But Foy leaves his church in San Antonio under a shadow (“They didn’t fire him, but he didn’t exactly quit either”). Adding to his problems is his divorce from his wife some two days prior. He decides he will use his newfound freedom to travel to the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans. The trip provides him with a mix of emotions, although he doesn’t do anything too crazy. The reader is then taken to Foy’s past, exploring time periods like his awkward middle-school experience in Houston and a weak attempt, in his college years, to convert strangers in Wisconsin. Then there are Foy’s preaching days. With his Nerf football his constant office companion and his willingness to say “fuck” (at least in private conversations), he sports a ministering style that strikes a balance. He is not too hip to arouse suspicion but not so stale that parishioners find him boring. He is also willing to contemplate big-picture items like what it means to truly believe in God. Although scenes from his youth provide vivid glimpses of the man Foy would become, both Atkinson’s (RealLivePreacher.com, 2013, etc.) book and his protagonist are at their best when tackling subjects that cannot easily be explained away with Scripture. At one point, Foy is summoned to a hospital room where a dying church deacon admits that he doesn’t believe in “the God stuff,” saying, “God becomin’ a little baby born in a manger. That sounds like somethin’ the Mormons would make up.” This would be a tough situation for anyone, but the man pinned with defending “the God stuff” is certainly in a tight spot. It is through such portions that the reader gets true insight into the life of a holy man. Giving a weekly sermon and comforting believers in need may seem easy enough, but what is one to do when those worshippers are more complex than expected? What happens when the sermonizers have their own doubts?

An inviting account of one man’s ambivalence toward his own faith and occupation.

Pub Date: March 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9967535-5-5

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Material Media LLC

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2017

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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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