A love story that remains gripping until the very last page.

THE AMULET

A trader takes his young bride into the perilous Canadian wilderness in this historical romance.

It is the summer of 1884 in the District of Saskatchewan in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Ian McNab, a trader and “granite-jawed” Scot, has taken a wife, to the surprise of all who know him. The beautiful Catherine looks about half McNab’s age and has the power to beguile every man who sets eyes on her. A born loner, McNab requested Catherine’s hand in marriage during their first encounter when visiting his father in southern Ontario. Now he finds himself returning with her to his trading post at the remote Pounding Lake, where he knows she will be utterly out of place. Before even arriving, their relationship is fraught—McNab is rough and impatient with her during lovemaking and considers her an “utter disappointment in bed.” And Pounding Lake is a troubled community surrounded by Native American reserves. Relations with the local Cree are becoming increasingly volatile. The strains are compounded when an already bitter winter worsens. Meanwhile, Catherine is introduced to the dashing Jay Clear Sky, a Cree interpreter who, fearing for her safety, gives her a protection amulet. The first draft of this tale was written by Sluman (Poundmaker, 1967, etc.). It was then rescued from obscurity by her daughter, debut author Somers, who “could not resist the urge to tweak” the story a number of years after her mother’s death. Closely based on the Northwest Uprising of 1885, this book, although a work of fiction, has a strong historical foundation. The engrossing narrative has everything required for a successful historical romance: a strong-willed heroine, a mysterious and forbidden love interest, and a viper’s nest of villains who eye Catherine lasciviously. The tension rises incrementally as the tale progresses, making for a true page-turner. But despite the growing sense of unease, there is also a fastidious attention to detail regarding the beauty of the Canadian wilderness: “She could see the water leaping and flashing, blue-green under the bright sunlight, free at last of the ice and debris that had choked it during the spring runoff.” Some readers may find the developing romance cloying, if unpredictable, but fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series will discover a comparable treat here.

A love story that remains gripping until the very last page.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5255-0480-8

Page Count: 253

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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