A poorly written tale of lost souls finding love.

Off the Line

A young man’s life changes when he meets a woman through a telephone dating service.

Frankie Barnes has no idea that his late-night decision to call a dating service while feeling lonely in his New York apartment will change his life forever. A frustrated salesman in his 20s, Frankie yearns for female company but suffers from unrealistically high standards and the repercussions of what he views as a traumatic experience years before with a previous girlfriend, who has now taken a restraining order out against him. When he first meets Sandy, a young mother who comes over to his condo looking for companionship, he is less than taken by her, but he soon discovers they share a real bond. Despite Frankie’s fear of possibly being HIV-positive, they have an intense sexual encounter after Sandy decides to introduce her young son—also named Frankie—to Frankie as though he is her son’s long-absent father. The whirlwind relationship escalates quickly into a frightening episode featuring Frankie’s ex-girlfriend and a trip to Florida to visit his ailing mother, who is suspicious about little Frankie’s true parentage. According to his preface, Duffy (Stockboy, 2013) drew on his own life to write the novel, but the telling is short on the authenticity of lived experience. Though readers are supposed to feel sympathy for Frankie, it is difficult not to see him as a frustratingly selfish man: His behavior toward women is immature and entitled, as with his ex-girlfriend, who he feels has wronged him simply because she broke up with him when she felt he was moving too fast. He also treats Sandy poorly as he chases after another woman who he thinks might be a better catch. His persistent refusal to get an HIV test is similarly frustrating. Mostly, however, Duffy’s novel suffers from being poorly written: “Frankie didn't want to let her know he was not attracted to her so he suggested he wasn't ready for anything serious although on the phone, he may have hinted he was looking for something quite substantial with a woman through his personal ad.” The plot goes in one direction and then another in ways that seem rather illogical, including a police investigation, a mob subplot and Frankie reconnecting with an old flame just as he and Sandy fly to Florida to see his mother. Throughout, the characters are written with so little psychological depth and described in such flat sentences that it is difficult to believe they could be real people.

A poorly written tale of lost souls finding love.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-1494277314

Page Count: 252

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2014

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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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