A colorful, nuanced novel about a golfer, his family and his choices.

Remember Big

PGA golfer Charlie Matthias drops out of the circuit and moves back to his hometown in this novel about his dysfunctional family and his own life crisis.

It’s Christmastime, and 33-year-old Charlie Matthias is back living at his childhood home in an affluent Chicago suburb. He just left the PGA circuit, where he’d made money and reached midlevel success. Now, he’s questioning his life. He kicked his cocaine problem two years ago, but his wife, hometown beauty Kathleen, finally divorced him and married a rich lawyer; they just had a child. Charlie feels disconnected from his family, which includes his golf-fanatic father, who pushed Charlie into his pro career; his subservient mother, who allows herself to be ruled by Charlie’s class-conscious father; and his twin, anorexic sisters, who live together, with one of them, newly pregnant, married to crass businessman Nip. Charlie’s most drawn to his feisty grandmother, however. His sense of isolation changes when, swerving and crying while driving through Chicago, he meets up again with Erica Denner, a childhood classmate whose family now owns and lives in an apartment building in a German neighborhood. He moves into the building and is exposed to Erica’s bohemian world. They get involved, but then events unfold—with his grandmother, his father, his agent and, most significantly, Kathleen—to complicate his possible new life course. Author Wittmann effectively captures Charlie’s somewhat privileged angst, with the depiction of golf fever at the country club being at times especially amusing. Surprisingly, however, Charlie’s own relationship with the game remains murky, despite emphasis on the fact that he shares a birthday with fellow (and real-life) late bloomer Phil Mickelson. Also featured are a couple of broad strokes in plot development, including a rather extreme incident bringing Kathleen back into the picture and a sexual escapade that seems out of sync for sardonic but sensitive Charlie. Still, Wittmann admirably doesn’t “solve” all of Charlie’s problems, instead making the point that sometimes in life, you simply play through.

A colorful, nuanced novel about a golfer, his family and his choices.

Pub Date: March 20, 2013

ISBN: 978-1483907222

Page Count: 294

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2013

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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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