Sexual debauchery and twisted identities reign in an intricately descriptive first novel, a thriller that reads like North by Northwest re-scripted by Joe Eszterhas and Franz Kafka. When sad-sack Anderson (no first name) agrees to help a lumbering barroom loudmouth make time with a couple of luscious coeds, he can't imagine that, only hours later, he'll be fighting for his life while his double, a man named Peterson, tries to drown him. Wet, dazed, and confused after killing his look-alike assailant, Anderson struggles back to Minnesota's Twin Cities, where he discovers that everyone thinks it's Anderson who has perished. Confronted with the denial of his ``true'' identity at every turn, Anderson flees into the awkward refuge of Peterson's personality. Not that it's the worst place to hide out: a genius multimillionaire with epicurean tastes and raunchy libidinal appetites, Peterson was in the dissertation-for-hire business: For an indefinite price, he would crank out a brilliant treatise in any discipline, sell the work to some mediocre scholar, and then blackmail the new professor into providing him with investment information or access to his wife. Briefly, Anderson gets into occupying Peterson's world, which features, among other perks, a sprawling apartment (complete with a Playboy mansion bedroom, wine cellar, and Jacuzzi) and a steady diet of saucy babes. Matters become thorny, however, after Shannon—Peterson's co-conspirator and preferred sackmate—appears, claiming that Anderson is really just a deluded Peterson. Dodging repeated attacks from a mysterious motorcyclist, Anderson combats his doubts while brooding over his increased comfort with Peterson's intellectually haughty and consummately horny existence. In desperation, he tracks down one of the well-endowed coeds who was an inadvertent accomplice to his original abduction, but nothing seems to be able to derail Peterson's master plan, which gradually develops an irresistible force. An immensely readable debut jammed with odd details, elaborate fight scenes, and loads of athletic, midwestern sex.

Pub Date: March 23, 1995

ISBN: 0-385-30606-7

Page Count: 405

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1995

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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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