An absorbing family saga provides a first-person account of Atlanta during the crucial civil rights era while also covering...

JAYBIRD'S SONG

A columnist, copywriter, and graphic designer combines a coming-of-age novel and a memoir.

Josephine “Josie” Grace Flint, aka Jaybird, lives a fairly complacent existence in middle-class Atlanta in the 1960s. The eldest of three girls, she has two loving parents—her father, Cooper, a devoted Georgia Bulldog fan, and her charismatic mother, Beverly. Her paternal grandmother and namesake, Annie Jo, lives nearby, taking an active role in her granddaughters’ lives. Then a tragedy involving Josie’s father occurs on April Fools’ Day 1968, forever altering her family’s structure. As she and her sisters, mother, and grandmother reel from their personal loss, Atlanta endures its own heartbreak a mere three days later, when Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis. Chapters from Josie’s teenage years alternate with her adult confrontation with another misfortune—Annie Jo’s fatal stroke on April Fools’ Day 2003. Annie Jo’s death reunites Josie and her sisters, along with her extended family, which now includes her stepsister LaDarla Dalrymple. A shocking discovery in Annie Jo’s personal effects leads to the re-evaluation of the murder of Izzy Jackson—the son of the Dalrymple family’s black maid—in downtown Atlanta in 1969. Florence (You’ve Got a Wedgie, Cha Cha Cha, 2016), a longtime Atlanta resident, expertly captures the city in the ’60s, with its indoctrinated, inherent racism, challenged by some but supported by others. At one point, Josie watches a cat rescue tale on the TV news (“It struck me how the cat story got as much time and photos as the Negro man that was dragged behind a car and left for dead”). In addition, the author deftly explores the early influences of the sexual revolution, which hits a little too close to home in Josie’s case. Florence’s long career in journalism is evident in the flawless writing, but the pacing is a bit off. More attention could have been devoted to the murder mystery, which seems like an afterthought but is far more engrossing than the crafts and outfits orchestrated by Annie Jo that Florence chronicles. Nevertheless, the overarching theme of Josie’s complicated relationship with her father, particularly as the true circumstances of his death become known, transcends other story threads. Florence’s skillful portrayal of ’60s Atlanta elevates this novel to striking historical fiction.

An absorbing family saga provides a first-person account of Atlanta during the crucial civil rights era while also covering the early 21st century.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9986781-0-8

Page Count: 266

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2017

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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...

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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