An upsetting, affecting novel about an attempt to understand trauma.


A young woman grapples with a long history of sexual abuse in this debut novel.

In Montreal in 1967, 16-year-old Rose’s family has a secret: Her father has been molesting her for years. “I had always been compliant because he had enslaved me at such a young age,” writes Rose as an adult, looking back. “I knew nothing else and until a few years earlier I hadn’t known how wrong this was. Stepford child. Once under his control, I believed I was complicit.” She now manages to avoid her father’s abuse, but she still can’t bring herself to tell her mother about it—although she suspects that she already knows. Rose later goes to college, where she channels her rage into radical politics and drug experimentation. A boyfriend suspects that she’s been abused, although she can’t talk to him about it, either. With the benefit of time—and years of therapy—an adult Rose recounts her story, interspersing her current thoughts between her memories. Other pieces of information are revealed, such as how her father forced her and her brother, Tom, to engage in sexual acts; and how her father had other victims, outside the family, who contacted her later—sometimes in an accusatory manner. As Rose tries to uncover the full scope of what happened to her, Nadler leaps between present and past—featuring Rose the character and Rose the investigator. It results in a fragmented text that effectively suggests the simultaneity of trauma and memory. Chapters are separated by lists, poems, short vignettes, and other items that feel pulled straight from a diary; Nadler’s prose also displays a strong preference for staccato sentences, as well as dramatic imagery: “I was relegated to the back rooms of [my mother’s] consciousness. The back rooms where cigars were smoked and poker played. The back rooms where shady deals were made. Where she would never go.” Although this stylistic choppiness does become overwhelming, at times the book’s sheer emotional weight offers a powerful reading experience.

An upsetting, affecting novel about an attempt to understand trauma.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5255-2498-1

Page Count: 276

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2018

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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