Skimpy characterizations and a thrown-together ending make for an unsatisfying story, though Andrzejewski’s work certainly...

HOLY WEEK

A NOVEL OF THE WARSAW GHETTO UPRISING

The first English translation of this 1945 Polish novel, the author (1909–83) of which is best known for Ashes and Diamonds; both books were made into films directed by the renowned Andrzej Wajda.

The title is misleading. Yes, this short work does take place just before Easter 1943, but the uprising is merely the backdrop for a story about two Gentiles who shelter a young Jewish woman in their suburban Warsaw home; more precisely, the Jewish resistance provides a litmus test for Polish attitudes toward the Jews. The three principals are architect Jan Malecki; his wife, Anna; and the Jewish Irena Lilien, who was once infatuated with Jan. He meets her by chance outside the burning ghetto; the uprising is under way, and the streets are filled with danger. The once fun-loving Irena has retained her beauty but is now consumed with bitterness; only bribes have saved her from the Gestapo. Jan is cold but feels obligated to take her in. The pregnant Anna has the instinctive humanity Jan lacks. A devout Catholic, she sees the fate of the Jews as a test for Christian conscience. In Warsaw, they generally receive little pity. A contrived scene in Jan’s office covers the spectrum of views. There’s a fascist who defends Hitler, and a gutsy typist who calls the dictator a disgrace; in the middle is Jan, equivocating. The next day, Good Friday, Jan tries to find another refuge for Irena and is gunned down in an improbable wrong-time/wrong-place development. Back home, Irena fends off a neighbor, a would-be rapist, while the neighbor’s wife, an anti-Semite, screams at her to leave. Irena returns her curses before heading back into Warsaw, and likely death.

Skimpy characterizations and a thrown-together ending make for an unsatisfying story, though Andrzejewski’s work certainly has value as social history.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8214-1715-0

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Swallow Press/Ohio Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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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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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

FIREFLY LANE

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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