The comedy and color are muted, though still unmistakably present, in a daring story that blends the contrasting extremes of...


Boyle's eighth novel reenters the risky territory of social concern and criticism that has proved a trap for his least characteristic, and weakest, fiction (East is East, 1990; The Tortilla Curtain, 1995).

In skillfully juxtaposed parallel narratives, reformed radical environmentalist Tyrone O'Shaughnessy Tierwater (the rhythm and ethnicity of whose name connote an authorial connection) speaks to us from the year 2025—alternating with the omniscient narrator who describes Ty's acts of ecoterrorism (mostly against California logging companies) as a member of Earth Forever! and their disastrous impact on his life and opinions. In the late 1980s, Ty, his militant wife and co-protestor/demonstrator Andrea, and their even more committed daughter Sierra ("so imbued with the principles of Deep Ecology she insisted on the ethical treatment not only of plants and animals, but even rocks and dirt") erected human barricades, disabled construction equipment, and embodied "statements," including a kind of Adam-and-Eve month in the woods and Sierra's encampment in a giant redwood tree, oblivious to both the machinations of loggers and her own safety. In 2025, Ty, now 75 and still at heart earth-friendly, manages a private menagerie owned by megamillionaire rock star Maclovio Pulchris—in a globally warmed world where entire countries have become swamps and deserts and continual flooding requires releasing animals from their cages: with predictable comic- horrible consequences. There's a lot to like in this bold accusatory book, because (as he failed to do in The Tortilla Curtain) Boyle locates the complex issue of exploiting people to protest the exploitation of nature in the vivid character of Ty, whose irascibility, genuine decency and courage, and sobered realization of the cost of their sacrifices ("There is nothing I want, except the world the way it was") maintain a firm grip on the reader's sympathies.

The comedy and color are muted, though still unmistakably present, in a daring story that blends the contrasting extremes of Boyle's energetic sensibility in a way that bodes well for his always interesting and highly readable fiction.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2000

ISBN: 0-670-89177-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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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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