By the author of Amanda/Miranda and other entertainments: a four-generational set of stout-hearted ladies—tough, wily, dwarfing their men, independent, and passing along their survivalist strengths to their daughters (often at a chilly or chary distance). Lena Wheatley tells her story of the wagon-train trek from Illinois to California in 1850, when she was a shy, wary 14: she loses her mother to TB and loses friends, particularly her "idol," the beautiful, graceful Sarah Ann, to an Indian attack; only after the searing journey is over does Lena, scalded by loss, dare to take comfort in the remnants of family—her adoptive Pa and Sarah Ann's wounded brother Lorenzo; she'll marry miner/farmer Evan after Pa's death. And then. . . Sarah Ann is found!—now a tattooed "savage," mind-crippled and pregnant by a Mojave husband. The two women are thereafter linked for life: Lena's child is whiny Opal, whom she idolizes; Sarah Ann will bear Effie, whom Lena will reluctantly adopt as her own. So, in generation #2, Effie tells of the move to a boarding house in Nebraska—where gruff, kind Sophie Wilhelm takes on widowed Lena as housekeeper, Sarah Ann as cook, grooming the despised Effie as a society beauty; and Effie's infatuation for Lorenzo forces Lena to tell the truth of her parentage. Effie's daughter Constance will host the next segment—as the narrative leaps from hard-time brothel days (Lena must diversify after the great fire of 1875) to silks and furs and San Francisco, where Effie, married to theater impresario Anton Nicholas, is now "Eve Waring"—a turquoise-eyed beauty who'll pack houses as an actress (and net the Prince of Wales). Constance's tale, however, spreads into other family matters: horrid Aunt Opal has married and produced twin boys, one of whom, gambler and sadist Terry, marries Constance's best friend Rose (who'll take terrible revenge); Constance marries Englishman Hugh, who's killed in the Boer war (but waiting at home is her fellow architect Joe); Constance's son Anton meets Rose's daughter June during WW I; June later dies. So the last testimony is Anton's tribute in 1939 to a Family of Women. . . and his own young daughter. Winey, full-bodied, gossipy, offering both calico and satin: a romantically styled winner.

Pub Date: April 18, 1983

ISBN: 0440187907

Page Count: 420

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1983

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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