A sweet, moving family tale.

EMMET AND THE BOY

A man who recently lost his wife spends two weeks with his grandson in an idyllic Michigan lakeside setting in this novel.

O’Leary (Irish Crossings: Danny’s Story, 2018, etc.) introduces readers to Emmet Hyland just before the most heartbreaking moment of his life, as cancer takes his love of 50 years, Mia. The couple’s only child, Jackie, shows up with her 13-year-old son, Colin, and Emmet barely has time to grieve when he is put in charge of the teen. Jackie and her new boyfriend are taking a vacation, and although Emmet doesn’t know his grandson very well, he feels obligated to take care of him. It’s awkward at first, as Colin keeps his head in his iPad and Emmet tries to figure out how to feed and entertain the kid. As it turns out, a little time hiking and learning to kayak on the lake is just what Colin needs to help him get over the hurt of his father leaving. And teaching Colin these things is just what Emmet requires to come to terms with Mia’s death and learn how to keep living. O’Leary’s tale is unabashedly sentimental, and it has no guile. Everything is played close to the surface, as in the scene where Emmet visits the box containing Mia’s ashes he carefully placed at the bottom of the lake: “I found my Mia nestled among the seaweed. The package was ragged. I don’t know if it was natural deterioration or if the fish were pecking away. I knew it didn’t matter to Mia. She was where she longed to be.” The metaphors are plain—Mia’s box dissolves as Emmet gains his footing and feels useful again helping Colin. The way Colin finds his confidence is fairly predictable. But in the author’s hands, these things are more comforting than cloying, and the story doesn’t overstay its welcome. This novel could have been a syrupy mess, but instead it is an affecting read.

A sweet, moving family tale.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73353-410-9

Page Count: 241

Publisher: Swan Creek Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2019

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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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