A dark, delightfully bizarre story that dives deep into the psyches of unbalanced characters.

A MUTUAL ADDICTION

In Widdicks’ debut psychological thriller, a sleep-deprived therapist becomes obsessed with a curious woman who seems to have restored her ability to dream.

Dr. Cressida Dunhill hasn’t dreamed since she had a car accident a decade earlier. She has no memories of the incident, but she survived it and someone named Max didn’t. One day, Viola “Vee” Marquis walks into Cressida’s office in Silverside, Oregon, at a psychiatric facility known locally as “The Mermaid Asylum.” Although Vee claims that she’s there because she’s upset that her boyfriend, Rex, is cheating on her, she seems indifferent about the visit. Cressida is unsettled and mesmerized by the woman as she casually strolls around the office. The doctor has a dream soon afterward in which she recalls some of the accident, and she associates this apparent breakthrough with Vee. The therapist wants to continue seeing her, even if that means pursuing a relationship outside the office. One potential obstacle is Rex, who Cressida believes is responsible for the bruises that she sees on Vee’s body. Protecting Vee from Rex may be the only way that Cressida can overcome her troubled, sometimes-sleepless nights. Before long, however, her concern for her patient turns into a fixation—one that could be dangerous for everybody involved. Widdicks’ deceptively simple tale has very few characters and a plot that burns slowly, gradually offering up its revelations about who Max is and particulars of the accident. There are a couple of plot twists along the way, but the novel’s most unpredictable element is the protagonist herself; she begins as a therapist who unquestionably cares about her patients, but surprising details about her past will cause readers to see her in a new light. The author’s prose is acute and self-assured, with pithy descriptions shaded with black humor: “Her hair was the topic of several discussions that day, including one twenty-minute negotiation with a paranoid patient who refused to even enter the room.”

A dark, delightfully bizarre story that dives deep into the psyches of unbalanced characters.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73297-620-7

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Outmanned Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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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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