BONNEVILLE BLUE

Chase's first collection displays the same subtlety and grace that distinguish her lyrical novels (During the Reign of the Queen of Persia, 1983; The Evening Wolves, 1989) from most other fiction about domestic life. There's nothing formulaic or predictable about these 11 nuanced tales about girls growing into their sexuality, women troubled by bad marriages, and men possessed by dreams of a better life. The young narrator of ``Aunt Josie'' learns about masculine desire and feminine wile by watching her beautiful and entrancing aunt, who lives at a state farm for boys where her husband is the athletic director and her niece visits for the summer. In ``J.C. Peach,'' an adolescent girl, infatuated with a more self-possessed classmate, shares with her the bond of their first periods. Slightly older, the 16-year-old narrator of ``Elderberries and Souls'' has a wild crush on her stepuncle until his dark moodiness sends her running back to her loyal beau, a less complex fellow her own age. In ``The Harrier,'' a married woman ``in a mist of yearning'' lusts for a local artist/mechanic, a younger man much closer to nature and more at peace with himself than her insensitive husband. Divorced women overcome self-pity and guilt in encounters with people worse off than they in ``Crowing'' and ``Ghost Dance.'' In ``Black Ice,'' a wife separated from her husband reviews on the phone their history of car accidents after he's survived a dramatic one alone. Chase's men are often driven by a fear of failure and a vision of a simpler life: the grandfather/defense-analyst in ``The Whole of the World'' must prove he's a better woodsman than his sons-in-law; the manic husband in ``An Energy Crisis'' changes his grand scheme with each job transfer; and the prep-school teacher in ``Jack Pine Savage,'' having abandoned his Ph.D. for the exigencies of a family, dreams of life as a French trapper in Canada. The title story, about life in a lower-middle-class housing development, is typical of Chase's superior storytelling skills—it's so multidimensional it resists paraphrase. Once again, Chase brings extraordinary elegance and imagination to everyday realism.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-374-11539-7

Page Count: 226

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1991

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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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