With shades of Monte-Cristo and Wuthering Heights: a beguiling, old-fashioned tale of desperate love and cruelty.


First-timer Yancey’s southern gothic, rich with murder, lust, tragic woman, and violent summer storms, strikes all the right chords.

The summer of 1960 is eventful for seven-year-old Shiny Parker: He sees the Pastor nearly burned alive, gets married to crazy Sharon-Rose (she insists on vows after Shiny sees her naked), and witnesses a murder. After Pastor Ned Jefferies’ house burns down, his wife Mavis and their daughter Sharon-Rose stay with the Parkers while Pastor Ned is hospitalized. Shiny’s older brother Bertram warns the boy to stay away from that peculiar Sharon-Rose; in truth, the whole house-burning incident seems mighty suspicious. Soon the two discover that clues to the worst murder case ever in Homeland, Florida, are under their very roof. Twenty years ago, dandy Walter Hughes was accused of raping Miss Mavis, and Halley Martin, strong, handsome and poor as dirt, killed Hughes to defend the love and honor of Mavis. Though they’d never formally met, Halley, working in her daddy’s orchard, secretly watched and drew Mavis every day, and from the watching grew a fierce love. Much of the story is from Halley’s perspective as he spends the next twenty years—hard ones, filled with violent suffering and told in vivid detail—in prison for Walter’s murder. With the help of the young prison chaplain, Halley learns how to write, and soon Mavis is flooded with declarations of his love, sentiments she secretly returns. The chaplain, none other than Ned Jefferies, contacts Mavis, and the fates once again turn against Halley Martin. Years pass, Halley continues writing Mavis, secretly builds up a fortune, and buys out her daddy’s plantation. On the same day Pastor Ned is released from the hospital, looking like a skinless turtle and now insane, Halley is released from prison—seeking Mavis, or revenge, or maybe both.

With shades of Monte-Cristo and Wuthering Heights: a beguiling, old-fashioned tale of desperate love and cruelty.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7432-3013-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

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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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