Though the ending may be too tidy, this tale about chronology proves to be as novel as it is brief.

The Birthday Boy

A young accounting student examines the strange relevance of certain dates.

On the opening page of this debut novella, a friend tells the narrator, Ravi, “There are some dates which, no matter how hard you try, the heart and mind never forget.” Though the statement seems true enough on the surface, what exactly does he mean? For Ravi’s friend Shalvin Chand, the date he has in mind is Jan. 28, the day he met Angeline Mala at school. Some years later, on that same date, Shalvin introduces Angeline to his parents. Even later, “on that very date, in a posh wedding ceremony somewhere in a posh Auckland hall, Miss Angeline Mala tied the knot and became Mrs. Naveen Agnihorti.” As for Ravi, “Dates of fate, I later learnt…come in two categories—one that you can remember, the other that you can’t forget.” So the reader follows along with Ravi to try to decipher what exactly he means by such a comment. There are his experiences in school, marked by teachers like Mr. Khan, whose clumsiness with English produces some interesting phrases (giving an example of a management team investigating its workers, he asks: “Are they doing sleeping?”), and friends like his eventual flat mate Karan Chaudhry. Karan, who invites Ravi to a party with the lure of an excellent chocolate cake, will illustrate for both the narrator and the reader the enduring importance of chronology. Exceedingly brisk at under 50 pages, the story moves at a pace that is both casual and concise, managing even to explore the more philosophical aspects of accounting without becoming dull. After all, is it true that “two different accountants working on the same trial balance will arrive at the same set of accounts”? The answer Prasad supplies may not be as obvious as the layman might think. And while the novella’s eventual conclusion may be too on the nose for some modern readers, the journey there remains effectively mysterious. Why is Ravi so interested in the chocolate cake, even bothering to tell the reader, “Chocolate cake is not about sweetness—it’s about chocolateness”? Certainly the curious should be eager to find out.

Though the ending may be too tidy, this tale about chronology proves to be as novel as it is brief.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4797-4104-5

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2016

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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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