A tender, spirited family tale to complete a warm, earnest series.


From the First Light series , Vol. 3

In this conclusion to Cardillo’s (Dancing on Sunday Afternoons, 2017, etc.) dramatic trilogy, a grief-ridden widow and her teenage son search for solace at her family’s island cottage.

It’s been a year since Florence resident Elizabeth Todd Innocenti lost Antonio, her husband of 14 years, to ALS. Her sorrow’s compounded by her mother-in-law, Adriana, who never accepted her and seems to resent her for still being alive. So Elizabeth takes up her grandmother Lydia Hammond on an offer to spend the summer at Innisfree, a cottage on Chappaquiddick Island, just off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Bringing along her son, Matteo, Elizabeth believes returning to her home will help them both. But she has her work cut out for her: elderly Lydia had to abandon Innisfree for a nursing home two years ago, and the cottage is now dilapidated. Elizabeth’s relationship with Matteo is also in need of repair, as his sorrow turns to anger and he sometimes lashes out at his mother. Elizabeth hopes to reignite her passion for documentary filmmaking (stunted during Antonio’s illness) and may be falling for a local, Caleb Monroe, grandson to Tobias, Innisfree’s former caretaker. But her most important decision is where she and Matteo will call home: Italy or Chappaquiddick Island. As in previous novels, Cardillo’s slowly unfolding narrative is steeped in lavish melodrama. A theme of family, for one, enriches the story: Adriana rejects Elizabeth, but the widow likewise keeps Caleb at bay, fearing his closeness could mean he’s replacing Antonio as Matteo’s father—or becoming something much more to her. The author’s fervent prose induces striking imagery brimming with emotion, like her description of isolated, battered Innisfree, which Elizabeth discerns is just as “needy” as she is. Despite the saga’s potential for utter bleakness, it’s often upbeat. Romance between Elizabeth and Caleb develops leisurely but effectively; Elizabeth reunites with beloved Izzy (Caleb’s aunt); and endlessly droll Lydia, still stuck in a nursing home, asks her granddaughter to “argue before my parole board and get me out of this joint.” 

A tender, spirited family tale to complete a warm, earnest series.

Pub Date: April 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-942209-37-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: Bellastoria Press

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2017

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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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