While adding to the literature of domestic violence, this novel delivers unpleasant characters.

Anything for Him

In this psychological thriller, a woman with an abusive, controlling boyfriend agrees to help him exact revenge on a childhood friend.

Felicity and Jay, of Coalton in Britain, have a classic co-dependent relationship. He drinks, loses his temper, and gets into fights; she tries to intervene, picks up the pieces, and makes excuses to her friends. Even uncritical Felicity is taken aback, though, when Jay asks her to become Mark Hutchington’s girlfriend so that she can make him suffer. Eleven years ago, when Jay and Mark were 16, they were best friends—until Mark slept with Jay’s girlfriend, Sammie. She later disappeared. “Everything that’s gone wrong for me is because of him,” Jay says. Chapters from Sammie’s point of view explain the events of 11 years ago and reveal early parallels to Felicity’s experience with Jay. Felicity becomes angrily defensive when a friend confronts her about Jay’s mistreatment—“I am not vulnerable and I’m no pushover”—and to somehow prove that, she agrees with the revenge plan, though she has misgivings when Mark is gentle, caring, and supportive. (Sammie’s experience, however, suggests another side to him.) Jay’s control-freak abuse quickly escalates, and Felicity becomes his prisoner. But reaching out to Mark uncovers a terrible and dangerous secret. Chapman (Too Good for this World, 2015, etc.) writes a concise, quick-paced, and dramatic woman-in-jeopardy story. She demonstrates a superb understanding of how women wind up with charming con artists who turn abusive; Sammie, for example, gets little love or attention from her parents, who are divorcing after her brother’s death. Felicity, too, experienced a family tragedy that left her with her guard down. But it’s a tough read when not a single character is sympathetic, kind, thoughtful, or self-aware; they instead range from maddening to loathsome. The pathologies of domestic violence presented here are well-known from fictional and nonfictional sources, making some things predictable, such as Jay’s increasing violence and control and Felicity’s denial that it’s happening. The surprising elements, meanwhile, feel garish and exploitative.

 While adding to the literature of domestic violence, this novel delivers unpleasant characters.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5197-3867-7

Page Count: 260

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2016

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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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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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