A complex and engrossing read about building a boat that’s rich in character and spirit.

The Big Tide

A NOVEL

Heberden (Outside Man, 2014, etc.) paints a particular portrait of American wants, values, and ideals in this contemporary literary novel.

When Eric Sumners decides to buy a boat for his wife, it seems like a simple enough plan. It’s the action of a rich man, certainly, but no more complex than the purchase of any expensive, beautiful romantic gesture. But while viewing his ideal ship, Eric stumbles on something that calls these ideas of beauty, art, and romance into question. A glimpse of a rowboat made by a neighboring craftsman creates a spark of imagination in Eric, and the gaudy, famed Nickerson ketch doesn’t seem nearly as appealing—much less artistic—as something built from scratch, made of wood with care. A true, genuine labor of love. But Eric’s whims and dreams don’t only concern him, and the size of the undertaking means much more than he could have anticipated. For Scott McKay, the disaffected artisan who made the boat Eric has become so enamored with, the wealthy man’s dreams represent an opportunity to prove himself to his business partners and live up to his potential by building this remarkable project. Meanwhile, Scott’s partner, Jack Colby, sees the project as a foolhardy risk, especially since he’s ready to leave the dying art of boat-building and repair behind. And Scott’s feelings for Jack’s wife, Ellen, only complicate matters. The story’s point of view shifts from chapter to chapter, lending insight into each character in turn as they move around and past each other in an intricate dance of wants, needs, and secrets. With hopes, dreams, love, and money on the line, conflict is inevitable, and no one knows all the other players well enough to prevent escalation or even, perhaps, to skirt disaster. There is an exquisite balance among character study, conflict, and scene here, as the details of the boat’s construction and the area’s history intertwine with plot and character. There are perhaps a few expository sections that go on too long or ring as awkward, but readers should get past these hiccups quickly enough and be richly rewarded with a truly excellent piece of Americana.

A complex and engrossing read about building a boat that’s rich in character and spirit.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-39080-1

Page Count: 566

Publisher: Camerado Press

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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