A soapy novel that strains credibility at times but still manages to tell a good love story.

WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND

A series of tragedies teaches one woman the difference between youthful passion and married love in Weinstein’s debut romance.

Jessica Parker is a spirited 16-year-old Angeleno living with her widowed mother and doing her best to hide her grief over her father’s death. While visiting the hospital where her mother works, Jessica meets 22-year-old Harvard medical student Jonas Levy and sparks fly. Jonas’ father, Adam, is dying of pulmonary fibrosis and his family is a fixture at the hospital that summer. Smitten with sexy Jonas and drawn to his close-knit family, she begins seeing him outside the hospital, despite the age difference—and despite Jonas’ long-term girlfriend, Emily. Jessica falls head over heels and Jonas seems to reciprocate, but when Adam dies, Jonas abruptly ends the fling. Her heartache lingers, but Jessica moves on to film school and an enviable job as a music supervisor with famous Hollywood producer Marty Tauber. They eventually marry and have a child, and Jessica finds fulfillment in her family and career until a tragic accident puts her marriage in jeopardy. During this period of uncertainty, an explosive secret is revealed and Jessica is unexpectedly reunited with Jonas. Unsure of Marty’s devotion and confronted with feelings she thought long buried, Jessica is forced to choose between her husband and the man she always considered the love of her life. Weinstein’s novel is a bit uneven, with the dilemmas Jessica faces as an adult proving more compelling than her teenage romance with Jonas. It requires considerable skill to depict young love with freshness, let alone to convince readers Jessica’s feelings are so extraordinary that even years later, after motherhood and a happy marriage, she would still take them as seriously as she did in adolescence. Unfortunately, the novel does not quite achieve these feats. The narrative is further weakened by Jessica’s penchant for maudlin flights of self-psychologizing instead of allowing readers to infer her feelings through her behavior. But the story’s twists and turns generate real tension, and Weinstein renders Jessica’s feelings with enough complexity that her ultimate decision carries emotional weight.

A soapy novel that strains credibility at times but still manages to tell a good love story.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1466236318

Page Count: 328

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2012

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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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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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