An introspective novel that reveals the depths of human connection and the struggle to overcome loneliness and trauma.

PRINTZ

A chance meeting in Paris sends two Americans into a relationship that forces them both to consider how well they know themselves and those around them in D’Agincourt’s (All Most, 2015, etc.) latest novel.

Jacob Printz, apparently in his early 40s, is a political campaign manager who can talk his way out of anything. But after his sister, Catherine, dies, he drops the various strands of his life and flies to Paris, with no plans other than to escape grief. Greta Hatler, 12 years Jacob’s junior, is similarly aimless; during a semester studying art history in Florence, Greta falls in love with her Italian lecturer, Tomasso. But now the semester is over, Greta is in Paris, and all she has is Tomasso’s ring and vague guilt. Tomasso remains a mystery for much of the novel as Greta attempts to piece together her affair and reconcile her memories; the last thing that she recalls about Tomasso is that he may be dying. In Paris, Jacob and Greta are thrown together not by romantic attraction but by twists of fate. Greta loses the ring, and Jacob returns it to her. But the cafe to which they retreat almost becomes the target of a suicide bomber. This layer of danger brings the two characters closer as they confront their fears and grief. D’Agincourt offers a quiet novel about trauma, memory, and how well one can understand another person. She often compares people and artworks, showing how both can be the subjects of speculation and interpretation. At one point, she describes how Greta, seeking to understand Tomasso, imagines his childhood: “He must have been precocious…rambunctious on the playground, needing to be the leader.” But then Tomasso tells her how wrong her imaginings are. Via third-person narration, D’Agincourt effectively steps into the heads of both Jacob and Greta, seamlessly integrating their perspectives and acute senses of loneliness. Despite their desire to connect, the characters lack the ability to adequately communicate their feelings. However, their flaws also give them complex interior lives that propel the novel forward.

An introspective novel that reveals the depths of human connection and the struggle to overcome loneliness and trauma.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9891745-9-6

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Portmay Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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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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