A book that intriguingly grapples with large topics, although some portions tend to drag.

THE ALTAR CALL

ROSWELL WASN'T THE WHOLE STORY

Cox (Providence of Mercy, 2012, etc.) offers a part sci-fi, part historical novel about the appearance of a strange creature in a small Southern town.

The story begins in the year 2007 with the unearthing of a 1947 time capsule outside of a Methodist church in Virginia. It contains the sorts of items that one might expect (such as old newspapers); it also includes an inordinate number of toy spaceships. The year 1947 may have been the year of an alleged UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico, but surely one toy spaceship would have sufficed. Ole Jimmoson, a local man, was in his teens in 1947, and through his story, readers find out what went on back then. That year, he says, a small, gray visitor came to their town. The being initially appeared in the local Methodist church and was taken in by the Rev. Frank Carson, who had his own problems: his wife was in a coma, and his relationship was deepening with the church’s secretary, Rachel Hooper, whose husband was missing in action in the Pacific. The book jumps between time periods and locations, illuminating a world that was hardly at peace following the end of World War II, with racism rampant in America and a revolution underway in China. The human characters struggle earnestly and sometimes violently, but the creature from beyond steals the show. The gray man, who’s eventually known as “Bobby,” may tend to talk like a robot, but readers will find that he makes valid points about the brotherhood of man. His comments can also be comical at times, as when humans call him a “mirage” and an “illusion,” and he gainsays them with definitions of those words. But, in contrast to Bobby’s clipped speech, the earthlings’ dialogue seems unnecessarily lengthy; for example, readers don’t really need to experience Ole’s speeches concerning the old days and how, in 1947, “electricity was still a fairly new thing for a lot of us.” Indeed, Bobby might have explained such things much more expediently—if he felt the need to do so at all.

A book that intriguingly grapples with large topics, although some portions tend to drag.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9904127-2-4

Page Count: 338

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 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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