Podrug’s strong, crisp style excels at description, particularly in the Russian scenes.

THE BETRAYERS

Robbins’s sixth posthumous novel finds new co-writer Podrug outwriting the hormonal old ghost, as was the case with Sin City (2002).

Each of these postmortal works demands a handful of outrageously vulgar scenes to lend a juicy Robbins scent to the whole, and The Betrayers has its pubic pinks. The occupation Podrug digs into here is making vodka, with greed as the usual Robbins subtheme. And as in Podrug’s Presumed Guilty (1997), the hero has a Russian background. Nicholas Cutter is the son of an English communist who marries a Russian communist then finds himself at the mercy of Hitler’s thugs in the early ’30s in Berlin. The parents wind up back in Leningrad, where the father is murdered by Stalin and the mother dies during the siege of Leningrad. Nick, meanwhile, learns about the making of potato vodka. In 1949, he sails to British Honduras and is taken in by his beautiful aunt Sarah and her abusive husband, who run a sugarcane plantation. Nick gets into the black market for Mayan relics and also finds a use for blackstrap molasses: making vodka. Later, he goes to Colombia, takes over the plantation of widow Sarita Garcia, devises a vodka that supposedly boosts sexual prowess, and begins selling it throughout the Caribbean and in Boston. A trip to Havana enfolds him in glamour, and he wants to move his alcohol operation there, now making premium rum. But the Castro takeover forces him to set up his stills in the Dominican Republic, where he falls in love and lives with Luz, the most beautiful woman in the country. Then the dictator Trujillo, impotent from a prostate operation, uses Luz to bring him young girls for his sexual pleasure as a voyeur, watching women make love. But when Trujillo is assassinated, Luz is seen as an assassin.

Podrug’s strong, crisp style excels at description, particularly in the Russian scenes.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-765-30810-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2004

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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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