A probing, sometimes-intriguing summer’s tale.

FACTORY

A coming-of-age novel follows a young woman searching for a direction in her life.

In the late 1980s, Lee Bauer returns home to Toledo, Ohio, after flunking out of her first year of college. Lee’s grades suffered not from a dearth of intelligence, but a lack of motivation; she became uninterested in school and “flaked” on her homework. She’s lost her connection with longtime friend Courtney—who seemed to thrive in her first year at college—and is burned out by the social scene in Toledo, full of fellow ne’er-do-wells getting high at house parties, like Derrick, a muscular pothead who’s coming off a tough breakup. To pay back her parents—her gruff father, a postman, and her weary mother, a waitress—Lee finds a job at an ice cream factory, toiling eight hours a day packaging products on an assembly line. While the position eventually becomes mindless to her, she makes friends with some of her fellow shift workers: Paul, a gossip hound; Ned, a family man; Kevin, a younger worker with eyes for Lee; and Kris, a witty, fascinating woman. As Lee starts to form new bonds, she also begins to more fully explore her desire for women, something she had only briefly indulged in before. As the summer progresses, Lee must confront her listlessness and find a life for herself, lest she fall into the trap of working at the factory full time. Yost’s (Votives, 2017, etc.) prose is meditative, imbuing the milieu of the small city with existential weight. Lee is well-developed as a central character, sadly realistic about her hometown (“Toledo never had anything to offer teenagers or college kids…they were the lost generation redone. In Toledo, we sought dark woods and abandoned alleys in which to get stoned or screwed, then faced the endless problem of what to do after burning the joint or buttoning the pants. Prospects were bleak for the unimaginative”). Her quest for meaning is full of mistakes and setbacks as well as illuminating steps toward clarity, particularly in discovering her sexuality. The rest of the characterization is a bit uneven—Lee’s father and Kris have captivating, rounded characters while Lee’s mother and sister, for instance, can feel static. The plot comes to a subtle, if uneasy, end, which is fitting for Lee’s character but will likely be somewhat frustrating for readers.

A probing, sometimes-intriguing summer’s tale.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9984146-0-7

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Radial Books, LLC

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2018

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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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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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