The author of The Mommy Club (1991), etc., ventures deep into farcical territory with a Pecos-Bill-style tale—about a Texas misfit who joins the rodeo to find her long-lost father. Sonja Getz would always be out of place in a town like Dorfburg, Texas—the spot where her mother, minuscule Tinka Getz, washed ashore and shortly afterwards gave birth. An adorable blond FrÑulein whose fascination with noble savages led to an unwise affair with a quarter-breed American serviceman in Germany, Tinka landed in Texas unwed and pregnant, but was embraced nevertheless by the sentimental German-Americans she found there. Big-boned, book-addicted Sonja, on the other hand, was left to grow up in utter solitude, comforting herself with fantasies of her absent father, whom she assumed from a publicity photo found in her mother's dresser to be a Navajo trick roper, stoically referring to herself as a woman of color, and operating a faltering pest-control business. When Tinka remarries and kicks 29-year-old Sonja out, the dour young woman marches off to the local rodeo, where she hires quarrelsome trick roper Prairie James to help her find her dad. The mismatched pair rumble across Texas and New Mexico in James's rusty van with his horse, Domino, riding in back, ducking into various rodeos along the way to chat it up with such satisfying potential fathers as wizened old Cootie Ramos and Prairie's former roping mentor, El Marinero. In the end, Sonja learns the horrible truth behind her parentage—but since by that time she's discovered her own amazing talent for rodeo announcing, fallen in love with a refreshment-booth proprietor, and helped rescue Prairie James from his muddled past, the bad news has little effect. Bird's extra-broad, cartoon-like humor here may disappoint ``Mommy Club'' fans—but it's probably safe to say that no one's ever invented a rodeo gal like this before.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-385-41124-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1993

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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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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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