If a Nancy Chan franchise actually looms on the horizon, this happy hooker will need to learn some new tricks.

DIARY OF A MARRIED CALL GIRL

In this uninspired sequel (Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl, 2001), Quan’s proud prostitute heroine simply goes back for sloppy seconds.

The sometimes amusing “diarist” narrator has married her impossibly perfect (and impossibly unsuspecting) banker boyfriend Matt, but otherwise it’s business, Brazilian waxes and Botox as usual. Weekly sessions with her shrink give Nancy a chance to be honest about her double life as wife and call girl, but for the most part it’s just lip service from a shallow, self-unaware liar hoping to keep her profession a secret. The most shocking thing about Nancy’s story isn’t the sex or her loyalty to the life, but the tiresome logistics. Someone is always coming or going, waiting in a hotel room or on voicemail, and they all require an excuse or a fresh lie. Covering-up has become this unnecessarily desperate housewife’s driving force, and it seems like quite a lot of hassle for a thirtysomething with a successful, baby-mad husband to want to put up with. Subplots involving sex-worker activism and a family funeral in Trinidad do little more than introduce more indistinct, dead-end supporting characters for the protagonist to manipulate or lie to. Meanwhile, Nancy seems to neither love nor want to leave hooking behind, and it’s not quite clear how the reader should view this conundrum: Is she sad and warped by the things she has done, or empowered and enviable? One thing that is for certain, Nancy is no Carrie Bradshaw, even if lunch conversations with her working-girl girlfriends read like tepid Sex and the City deleted scenes. And with the entire story taking place in early 2001, all this pre-9/11 grunting and groaning feels dated. Anyone looking for confessional, know-how secrets from a sexual dynamo will be woefully disappointed by advice like, “When in doubt, wear black.”

If a Nancy Chan franchise actually looms on the horizon, this happy hooker will need to learn some new tricks.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-5354-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Three Rivers/Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

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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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

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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