A crusading novel that blends architectural elements with the beauty of nature to evoke the benefits of sustainable...

THE ARCHITECT WHO COULDN'T SING

A young man receives a mysterious letter and map from the father he once thought dead in this debut novel.

Charlie Cadwell lost his mother at an early age and was raised by his grandmother, all the while believing his father never came back from the Vietnam War. But upon his college graduation, Charlie receives a letter from his long lost father asking him to come to him in Washington. There, he is met with a wondrous sight: the Fish Camp, an architectural utopia built upon the principles of enabling structures. Even more wondrous than the architecture he encounters at Fish Camp, however, is Maggie, the beautiful young woman who works as a nature conservationist. Reunited with his father, Charlie learns the truth behind their estrangement: broken by the Vietnam War, his father, CM, committed an act of treason and went underground. But CM has plans for Charlie; he wants him to present a design based on the Fish Camp for a contest soliciting ideas about the future of urban development. While Charlie decides whether or not to help his father, he embarks on building the last Fish Camp unit, mostly to impress and seduce Maggie. The book showcases what seem to be Alt’s two great loves: nature and architecture. With detailed, meticulous descriptions, Alt brings the Fish Camp to life and does a commendable job of explaining how it exemplifies the idea that building horizontal is more advantageous than building vertical. But Alt is equally concerned with the conservation of nature; Maggie’s battle against fish hatcheries works as metaphor for the entire battle to save the environment from destruction caused by humans. The lofty message, at times, feels a little too heavy handed with characters serving as uniformed stereotypes who don’t understand the negative consequences of their actions. Despite a rather rushed ending, Alt’s book draws to a satisfying conclusion that hinges on the strength of the relationships the author creates.

A crusading novel that blends architectural elements with the beauty of nature to evoke the benefits of sustainable development.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-1457507205

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2012

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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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