A sensitive work from a very promising author.


In Zokan’s debut novel, the members of an American Baptist missionary family in Cali, Colombia, confront some surprising secrets.

Teenager Josie Wales, the kid sister of Aaron and the daughter of Henry and Astrid, narrates this story of a fateful summer in the family’s lives. It’s 1976, Josie is soon to enter her junior year of high school, and Aaron, his senior year. The season’s first bombshell hits when Josie discovers that her father’s mysterious errands are to see and support a woman with whom he secretly fathered a child. Henry is contrite, and he and Astrid try to work through the situation. The other woman, Samara, then tricks them into taking care of the baby, whose name is Piedad Maria. If the mission hierarchy finds out that the child is Henry’s, he could lose his position, which would put the family back in the United States, adrift. Then a second bombshell goes off, involving Astrid, which shakes the family to its roots. Josie’s only confidante is young Blanca, a Colombian housekeeper, and the teen begins to flirt with Catholicism. To her parents, this nascent apostasy is morally worse than what they’ve done—even though sneaky, unpleasant Aaron is hardly a model child. As Josie navigates her family situation, she deals with typical, young-love issues with her boyfriend. Overall, this is an offbeat coming-of-age story, albeit a brutal one, and Josie is perfect in her role as the story’s protagonist and moral center. Zokan effectively shows how the teenager heroically tries to make things right and to get her family members to stop their denial and hypocritical behavior—and they are revealed to be very ugly Americans indeed. The reader aches for a happier ending, as Henry, Astrid, and Aaron appear to have learned nothing, satisfying themselves that somehow all their misfortunes were Josie’s fault. Intriguingly, however, they haven’t ostracized the protagonist at all—they’ve liberated her.

A sensitive work from a very promising author.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-940215-80-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet