An intense story of one woman’s journey of self-discovery.

Flat Earth Theory

In this debut novel, a Brooklyn teacher and mom must find her inner strength after an ugly divorce, despite the growing threat of terrorist attacks against the French school where she works.

Tess Shapiro is a teacher at a school for French expatriates in Brooklyn’s hip Carroll Gardens neighborhood, the mother of two young children and a recent divorcée who is still struggling to navigate the messy aftermath of her failed marriage. Her ex-husband, Patrick, was an emotionless sociopath who cheated on Tess with numerous women, including prostitutes, and showed no remorse. Tess is glad to be rid of him, but it’s hard for her to heal from the hurt he caused. The only distraction she has from her problems is the comics she draws starring her glamorous spy alter ego, Andrea Chambers. But Tess begins to finally move on once she meets Guy, the sexy father of one of her students, who has moved to New York from Paris for only a year while he works for a game development company. Their feverishly romantic fling is a welcome distraction for Tess, especially when a neo-Nazi terrorist group known as NAFKA starts attacking French cultural centers around the world, and anti-French graffiti starts popping up at school. But tragedy brings Patrick’s presence back onto the center stage of Tess’ life, just as she starts to wonder whether Guy may not be what he seems. Egal has created a heartbreakingly relatable character in Tess, a woman who is smart in so many ways but naïve in so many others. Readers should certainly empathize with her battles to find herself amid the smoldering wreck of her marriage. Indeed, Tess’ struggle to deal with the fallout of her relationship with Patrick—not to mention her burgeoning feelings for Guy—creates enough drama on a personal level that the international intrigue of the NAFKA attacks feels unnecessary and oddly forced. The plot takes a weird turn that readers probably won’t expect, one that is welcome but awkward in execution.

An intense story of one woman’s journey of self-discovery.

Pub Date: May 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-61927-8

Page Count: 166

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

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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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