An uneven post-apocalyptic story that wavers between the usual depictions of survival and horror but doesn’t successfully...


In the aftermath of an abusive marriage, a woman’s search for peace forces her into a primeval new world.

After being shot by her abusive husband, Robert, Sarah Robinson moves to St. Louis with her two daughters, Jazz and Janie. Sarah, who suffers from PTSD, has violent nightmares. Regular meditative sessions with Asha, a Kenyan spiritual teacher, are her only respite. One of these dreamlike sessions leads her to confront the Storm that rages within her, and aided by Asha’s own inner white light, she summons her avatars—the Horse, the Bear, the Elephant, and the Tiger—and contains the maelstrom. Upon awaking, she discovers the Storm was real, claiming not only her teacher, but also buildings, roads, and all other trappings of civilization, replacing it with grassland and non-native flora and fauna. Men, women, and children are left frightened and naked in this new world, yet Sarah finds herself renewed, her animal spirits healing her and giving her supernatural strength and speed. Using survival skills learned from her mother and passed on to her daughters, the trio rallies other survivors into a makeshift “Family” of hunter-gatherers. But not all members of the Family are trustworthy, as Tony, a manipulative misogynist, seeks to become King and force Sarah into submission. Lips’ debut traverses a lot of ground and struggles to find its tone, starting strong with horrific imagery and uneasy suspense then meandering into survivalist tedium. The immediate aftermath of the Storm’s carnage is impressively frightening: The elderly’s pacemakers and prosthetic hips disappear, loved ones in basements are left sealed underground, and twisted bodies line what were once roads after all cars suddenly disappear. But the vigor with which Sarah embraces this new world and the heavy focus on the technical aspects of survival strategies make these early horrors largely forgettable. Magical happenings abound in the novel, and there is a charming whimsy to the way Sarah’s inner creatures become real. But as satisfying as this is, no other characters are explored deeply enough to have similar growth, making them props.

An uneven post-apocalyptic story that wavers between the usual depictions of survival and horror but doesn’t successfully integrate them.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9980325-0-4

Page Count: 294

Publisher: Elliptic, LLC

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2019

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


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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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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