Swick’s fourth book and second novel (following last year’s Paper Wings) is an engrossing domestic melodrama carved from the same vein mined so successfully by writers like Sue Miller and Jane Hamilton. Things begin explosively, with the accidental shooting of two-year-old Trina by her nine-year-old half-brother Teddy. Trina dies, and the story of that loss’s effect on her survivers is told in the juxtaposed narratives of guilt-ridden Teddy and the children’s stricken mother Giselle. We learn that Giselle had divorced Teddy’s father Ed and fled Nebraska for southern California, where she found a fulfilling intellectual life and, eventually, marriage to her adult ed English teacher Dan Trias. The likable Giselle laboriously pulls herself through the twin ordeals of losing a child and managing not to blame Teddy (who is all but destroyed), but Dan, a much less generously realized character, cannot as well as she does. The resulting tension between the two of them drive Dan briefly away—and (in a just barely credible plot development) to the writing of a book about their loss—while Giselle (vacillating between anger and pain, between fantasies of revenge and reconciliation”) goes back to Nebraska, where Teddy, visiting his father, has preceded her, to try to pull herself together again. Swick occasionally miscalculates (Dan’s emotional confusion effectively obliterates any clear definition of his character), but she touches us by demonstrating how the Triases— efforts to resume a “normal” life are repeatedly, inevitably thwarted, and she delineates with moving restraint the progress Giselle and Ed make toward a truce. Best is her characterization of Teddy: a brave, bright, sentient kid who painstakingly learns to accept responsibility for his act, grow beyond it, and shape his future accordingly (“Now I want to learn what it feels like to save a life”). Overlong, and its insights into the psychology of grief and guilt are unexceptional. But the voice and spirit of that little boy will stay with you. (First printing of 100,000)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-82533-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1998

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Briskly written soap with down-to-earth types, mostly without the lachrymose contrivances of Hannah’s previous titles...


Sisters in and out of love.

Meghann Dontess is a high-powered matrimonial lawyer in Seattle who prefers sex with strangers to emotional intimacy: a strategy bound to backfire sooner or later, warns her tough-talking shrink. It’s advice Meghann decides to ignore, along with the memories of her difficult childhood, neglectful mother, and younger sister. Though she managed to reunite Claire with Sam Cavenaugh (her father but not Meghann’s) when her mother abandoned both girls long ago, Meghann still feels guilty that her sister’s life doesn’t measure up, at least on her terms. Never married, Claire ekes out a living running a country campground with her dad and is raising her six-year-old daughter on her own. When she falls in love for the first time with an up-and-coming country musician, Meghann is appalled: Bobby Austin is a three-time loser at marriage—how on earth can Claire be so blind? Bobby’s blunt explanation doesn’t exactly satisfy the concerned big sister, who busies herself planning Claire’s dream wedding anyway. And, to relieve the stress, she beds various guys she picks up in bars, including Dr. Joe Wyatt, a neurosurgeon turned homeless drifter after the demise of his beloved wife Diane (whom he euthanized). When Claire’s awful headache turns out to be a kind of brain tumor known among neurologists as a “terminator,” Joe rallies. Turns out that Claire had befriended his wife on her deathbed, and now in turn he must try to save her. Is it too late? Will Meghann find true love at last?

Briskly written soap with down-to-earth types, mostly without the lachrymose contrivances of Hannah’s previous titles (Distant Shores, 2002, etc.). Kudos for skipping the snifflefest this time around.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-345-45073-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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