A bleak but eloquent portrait of a woman’s attempts to survive poverty and violence.


In this slice-of-life novella set in Lancashire, England, a young woman with a tragic past cultivates a dream of security and comfort that her destitute life seems unlikely to deliver.

Little Elise Rose is only 7 years old when she witnesses her mother Grace’s brutal murder at the hands of one of the many men who regularly bring trouble into their lives. This horrible night of violence cuts short Grace’s attempt at a new start in a low-income housing project, living under the protection of her father, Emmett, a shop owner who adores his daughter and granddaughter. It also sets Elise on a downward spiral that leads to her eventual commitment to a mental hospital for two years. She is 20 when she is deemed well enough to be released, “unsure if this was the start of something new or the continuation of something old and troublesome.” Returning to the home she shared with her grandfather, Elise teeters between the hope of a new life, symbolized by a snug cottage she sees on Darcy Lane at the end of a bus line, and the self-destructive habits that lead her back to the Phonebox, the alley bar frequented by her old associates. Two influences seek to tip the balance: her mother’s journal, left for her in hopes that Elise might profit from Grace’s mistakes, and Jack Clapham, a shady character who is likely to prove dangerous. Graham’s compact narrative is well crafted, evoking the pervasive hopelessness of working-class life, in which dead-end poverty leads all too often to crime and violence and people drift passively and repetitively into trouble. Hope appears in garden imagery, interwoven throughout the text in Grace’s and Elise’s “daisy blonde hair,” the ritual visit to the mental hospital’s garden before the latter’s release, and the peace and normality represented by the unattainable cottage on Darcy Lane. But Elise’s submissiveness is frustrating, and the work’s short length necessitates the underdevelopment of certain plot elements, such as the importance of Grace’s journal. Still, captivating snatches of phrases, like the description of Emmett as “a hunch of a man,” paint a vivid picture of the difficulty of life in an English housing project.

A bleak but eloquent portrait of a woman’s attempts to survive poverty and violence.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-398-40017-7

Page Count: 130

Publisher: Austin Macauley

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.


When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.


The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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