For readers with a high enough threshold for meandering diatribes to make it to the end, answers to certain questions—e.g.,...

GET ME OUT OF HERE

The latest creation from Sutton (Thong Nation, 2006, etc.) is a mad man in a mad world, obsessed with brand names and luxury but furious with cheap materialism and shallowness of life in London as the credit crisis of 2008 unfolds.

When he isn’t wooing women who want nothing to do with him, Matt harangues retail clerks and managers as he attempts to return shoes, luggage, designer eyewear and other ill-advised purchases that he goes from fervently desiring to deeming faulty. He’s having cash-flow problems which he attempts to remedy by offering friends and family further “investment opportunities” in a murky business scheme he’s hatching with the North Koreans. Dumped by yet another girlfriend, Matt turns from disturbed to unhinged—his rambling internal rant follows increasingly sinister misadventures punctuated by ominous gaps in which the women he encounters, spies on and stalks disappear. Consumed with ire with others’ excess and jealousy over their seemingly endless credit, while he, broke and bashed-up by violent incidents that are never fully elucidated is forced to cadge free meals from the friends and associates he compulsively mistreats and to steal cheap wine, he spirals downward into a paranoid, self-destructive loop. His narrative becomes elliptical and contradictory, rife with nonsensical digressions and digressions within digressions, usually on his purchase history and feelings on design, style and the lack of integrity in name-brand products. Very little happens, although there is a sort of progress to his decay. An image, contradictory to his deluded self-image and fantasy-life, begins to emerge from glimpses of his reflection and others’ shock and disgust at his increasingly bruised and scratched face, his wonky glasses and disheveled demeanor. Meant to be a satire, what little humor there is in his absurd turns of mind and in the juxtaposition of his delusional rants and pathetic reality soon wears thin, with little support from the weak plot and meandering language. But are Matt’s murderous thoughts just thoughts?

For readers with a high enough threshold for meandering diatribes to make it to the end, answers to certain questions—e.g., what’s actually going on with Matt? will he ever manage to escape to North Korea?—aren’t much of a reward, given the larger question posed by a lack of story, entertainment or meaning: Who cares?

Pub Date: June 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-60945-007-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2011

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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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