A unique, occasionally heartbreaking tale that offers a sliver of hope.


An automobile accident on New York City’s FDR Drive forever changes the lives of two families and forces a cultural clash between Manhattan’s upper-class Anglos and its immigrant Hispanic underclass.

Altschuler’s (Invisible Chains, 2012) second novel is ambitious in its scope, dealing with both the personal journey of rediscovery by a middle-aged woman and the legal minefields faced by undocumented immigrants. Additionally, it raises the provocative issue of using immigrants held in detention to staff sweatshop factories. The drama begins when Roisin Casey—wife, mother of two, professional manager in a pharmaceutical firm and comfortable member of Manhattan’s advantaged social and economic class—becomes momentarily distracted and swerves her car into a rather dilapidated truck driven by Juan Rodriguez, an undocumented immigrant and member of the city’s working poor. Wracked with guilt when Juan is arrested for having an expired driver’s license and learning that he faces deportation, Roisin feels compelled to help Juan’s wife and infant son. In the process, she finds she can no longer contain the growing dissatisfaction and emotional turmoil that has been roiling beneath the surface of her safe, exceedingly orderly life. The steps she takes to befriend Juan’s wife, Lourdes, threaten her own marriage and profoundly shake her family. The narrative is relayed through the alternating perspectives of the primary characters: Roisin, Juan, Lourdes, Juan’s brother Angel and, to a lesser extent, Roisin’s son, Warren. Altschuler is prone to exaggerating the good, the indifferent and the nasty in her characterizations, but her story is compelling and important. Unfortunately, the message is undermined by sloppy punctuation, which a solid copy edit could easily repair. Throughout the work, for example, the use of quotation marks is totally capricious. Often there are opening quotes but no closing quotes; sometimes there are no quotation marks at all. This oversight becomes even more confusing because characters frequently do not express their thoughts out loud, making it important to indicate when they are actually speaking. In such a compelling story, readers are likely to forgive a few errors, but another copy edit is still essential.

A unique, occasionally heartbreaking tale that offers a sliver of hope.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-1491810767

Page Count: 222

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2014

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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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