Refreshingly original writing with a delightfully orchestrated twist.

THE CONDOR'S SHADOW

In Story’s (Problems of Translation, 2015) second novel, several outsiders try to outrun their pasts.

In 1971, Clayton Poole is a 34-year-old journalist for the Rolling Hills Reporter newspaper in Montana. In the paper’s “morgue” of articles from other news outlets, he’s startled by a recent piece about a woman in Washington state who confesses to killing her estranged husband with a gun that a “mysterious stranger” gave to her. This discovery leads him to call an emergency meeting with his editor, but the exact reason for his excitement isn’t immediately revealed. In 1965, Rusty Thomas meets a waitress named Maddie in a diner at the limits of Southeast City, Washington. He presents her with a pair of nylons that he won in a radio contest. Their ensuing relationship is troubled by the specter of Maddy’s past. In 1952, Travis Mackey is a 15-year-old youth who lives with his father, the caretaker of a shutdown gypsum mine in the Coast Range in California. Ever since his mother’s untimely death, his dad has taken to beating him regularly. One day, on a deserted country road, he looks up and sees a condor, and he imagines it swooping down to sink its talons into the old man. Not long afterward, a stranger appears at the mine toting a gun. The narrative spans almost seven decades, beginning in 1952 and concluding in 2018, but author Story proves to be a master of the slow reveal, gradually pulling away the veil that shrouds a secret that’s central to the plot. He does so by sharing details of his characters only when readers truly need to know them, and not before. Regarding Rusty, Story writes laconically, “Though he lived close to the heart of the town, near the college, he was customarily drawn to peripheries.” Such revelations lead to further questions; for instance, is Rusty drawn to peripheries because he has something to hide? The novel’s epilogue is somewhat long-winded, unnecessarily tying up every loose end. Otherwise, though, this is a smartly conceived, beguiling tale that few readers will forget.

Refreshingly original writing with a delightfully orchestrated twist.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9862382-2-2

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2019

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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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