A sometimes-engaging story that suffers from a disjointed presentation.

Fast

Cea’s debut novel, an allegorical adaptation of the legend of Faust, tells a story about the difficult choices that face people in the modern world.

The book starts with a preface by the author and a prologue from the narrator’s point of view, explaining the philosophical underpinnings of the story to come. Cea notes that there will be many allusions to classic literature and film, which he says will enrich the narrative. His unnamed narrator then begins the tale in earnest, looking back on his own mistakes in life and pondering the context for his downfall. The first half of the book is the most engaging, showing the narrator’s upbringing in New York City by a strong mother and a father who was kind to his family and friends but unrelentingly brutal to those he saw as cruel. The narrator was a bright kid, but not terribly interested in what school had to offer—until a teacher showed him how to question his surroundings in a more intellectual manner. There are some beautiful moments here, especially when the narrator tries to understand his father’s dual nature. The second half of the book is more contrived, as the narrator settles into the Faust plotline. He’s talked into buying a horse and gets involved in a gambling scheme that’s backed by organized crime. This interrupts a developing storyline from the first half, in which the narrator gets married and is forced to adapt to the fact of his father’s death. But although the author introduces some colorful characters in the latter half of the book, the narrator’s family barely appears in it. The author’s motivations for joining the scheme are attributed to his need to get ahead for his family’s sake, but readers never get to see that family life in order to put that decision in context. He winds up in prison, and after long passages of debating different schools of philosophical thought, he ends up leading a different life than the one he envisioned. The novel’s frequent allusions to other works, which the author footnotes and explains, wind up being more of a distraction than a useful addition.

A sometimes-engaging story that suffers from a disjointed presentation.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-57709-7

Page Count: 258

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2016

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

FIREFLY LANE

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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