A finely drawn story of a woman losing everything and finding herself.

RESURRECTING RAIN

A woman’s unraveling life prompts her to explore her unlikely past in this literary novel by Averbach (Missing Persons, 2013, etc.), former director of the Chautauqua Writers’ Center in Chautauqua, New York.

College librarian Deena Berman’s life is thrown into chaos when her husband’s poor investment decisions cost the family their beautiful home in Shaker Heights, Ohio. While packing up for the move, Deena comes across her old college application essay, which tells the story of her unusual childhood. Her lesbian mother, Leah Marcus, rejected her own affluent upbringing in order to live the life of a hippie, renaming herself Rain and living in a same-sex relationship on the New Moon Commune outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where Deena was born. Deena left New Moon as a teenager, but as an adult, she faces new problems. Among other things, she loses her job after she’s suspected of stealing books, and her marriage to her husband, Martin, falls apart. Her son, Elliot, decides to join the Navy now that they can’t afford to send him to college. Her daughter, Lauren, moves in with punks and exhibits some of the countercultural tendencies that Rain did. As the setbacks pile up, Deena follows a photography professor—with whom she’s had a brief affair—to Sarasota, Florida. Things go from bad to worse, and Deena begins to unpack the secrets of her upbringing, confronting for the first time the woman her mother really was—and the woman she is as well. Averbach unspools her story with dark humor and a mounting sense of calamity. Her prose is measured yet vigorous, capturing the chagrin Deena feels with each new humiliation: “She needed help. The problem was that Martin wasn’t taking her calls. He hadn’t spoken to her since the night Elliot had unraveled the lie she’d been living. It was horrific how swiftly that idle dalliance had turned her life inside out.” Averbach approaches Deena’s problems with restraint and seriousness and has things to say about materialism and self-exploration. While some of the conclusions feel a bit preordained, any lessons take a back seat to an organic and quite captivating plot.

A finely drawn story of a woman losing everything and finding herself.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-936135-82-0

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Golden Antelope Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2019

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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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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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