While its message may deter atheists and other skeptics, this novel should appeal to the religiously inclined and those...

A New Love


A woman living in Corinth around A.D. 50 loses a lover but finds another, along with a new faith.

In this historical novel, Whitley (Light to the Darkness, 2008, etc.) tells the story of Helena, a young woman who’s a ward of Claudia Sylvana, a wealthy, politically connected woman in a prosperous Roman province of “Greeks living in a Roman world.” Claudia’s husband, Gaius Marius, rapes Helena, and she discovers that he also apparently caused her father’s suicide due to a usurious loan. Helena plans revenge but finds Gaius already dead when she arrives to stab him. Fearing she’ll be wrongly accused, she leaves with her newfound friend Erastos, who hustles her to safety with the apostle Paul and his followers. Once a famous actor, Erastos falls for Helena, but she loves Ares, her childhood sweetheart. She receives news he’s drowned, but later learns that he was in fact enslaved and then freed on a deserted beach, where a group of Christians found him and nursed him back to health. Ares converts to Christianity, devoting his life to Jesus and Paul. Paul, meanwhile, is assailed by Jewish zealots and brought before a Roman court for his teachings, but Helena gets Claudia to pull some strings and he’s set free. Several more men attempt to rape Helena, but brave rescuers always save her. When she tries to sound out Ares on marriage, he explains he’s devoted his life to Christ. At loose ends spiritually and emotionally, Helena flees more unwanted amorous advances. After helping a family of poor itinerant farm workers, she sees the light, forgives all those who have transgressed against her, chooses a husband, and embraces a new religion. Whitley has written an unpretentious book that works as a love story on a couple of levels—of a woman losing one man’s love but finding another’s, and also of someone discovering the love of all humanity. Despite an occasional slip—what, for instance, is a “limpid hand”? —Whitley’s writing is clear and well-paced, and she draws a believable picture of her characters and life during the days of St. Paul. Her description of a dinner party in which the guests flatter their powerful Roman host, for instance, is dead on, and the unfolding tale of Helena’s predicaments and gradual resolution is convincing and sometimes poignant.

While its message may deter atheists and other skeptics, this novel should appeal to the religiously inclined and those interested in Christianity’s first stirrings.

Pub Date: May 31, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9967535-0-0

Page Count: 284

Publisher: New Beginnings

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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


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?