A memorable depiction of an emerging writer exploring the many prisms of her voice.

Everyday Truth of a Rainbow Woman

In this debut novel, a middle-aged woman explores past lives and present tensions in emails to her daughter.

“I was Sha Li, a priestess of the highest order, a worshipper of Kuan Yin, goddess of compassion and mercy.” So begins the first of many notes, via email, that Grace Heronheart drafted (and mostly sent) to Alyce, her college-aged, eldest daughter, just after Grace quit her 20-year job as a school psychologist in rural West Virginia. After noting that “our families probably think that I lost my marbles,” Grace tells Alyce that she’s actually “finding my rainbow colored, multifaceted marbles” by pursing her dream of being a writer. She provides her daughter with everyday-life updates, particularly regarding Alyce’s disapproving father; she also shares the story of her past incarnation as the aforementioned Sha Li, a secondary wife of a Chinese warrior. She tells tales of other past lives, such as Zete, a “dark-skinned” tribal “prophetess,” and Mourning Dove, a Native American who fell in love with a trapper. Along the way, Grace details the roles that Alyce and the rest of her present-day family played in these past existences. By novel’s end, she tells her daughter that she’s come to the conclusion that “I only write my own script. I cannot write anyone else’s,” and embarks on “a new adventure, and a new beginning.” First-time author Furst has written an engaging tale of midlife awakening that reads like a memoir even as it skillfully deploys past-life metaphors. Grace’s missives combine the relatable tone of a typical email from a mom (such as when she applauds Alyce’s choice in boyfriend) with striking tableaux of imagined lives. Sha Li’s tale is particularly poignant and reminiscent of the works of Amy Tan and Jung Chang. It’s rather ambitious to cover three past lives and a conflict-ridden present, however, and the “P.S.” about Grace’s modern-day decision comes as a rather abrupt bombshell. Overall, though, Furst effectively sketches a character that lives out her assertion that “sanctuary can be found in all my rainbow stories.”

A memorable depiction of an emerging writer exploring the many prisms of her voice.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5043-4707-5

Page Count: 298

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


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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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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