Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

Title:  The Twelve Lives of Samuel  Hawley
Author:  Hannah Tinti
Publication Information:  The Dial Press. 2017. 400 pages.
ISBN:  0812989880 / 978-0812989885

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "When Loo was twelve years old her father taught her to shoot a gun."

Favorite Quote:  "Their hearts were all cycling through the same madness - the discovery, the bliss, the loss, the despair - like planets taking turns in orbit around the sun. Each containing their own unique gravity. Their own force of attractions. Drawing near and holding fast to whatever entered their own atmosphere ... they would find love and lost love and recover from love and love again."

Samuel Hawley is a criminal. Loo Hawley is his twelve year old daughter. Despite everything, Samuel Hawley has good in him, and he loves his daughter. Loo's mother is only a memory kept alive by the box of mementos that Samuel Hawley carries from home to home. For Loo, life has always been her father and her. For Samuel Hawley, life is a string of scars on his body, each of which signify a place, a set of people, and a memory.

The beginning of the book finds Samuel returning with Loo to Olympus, Massachusetts. This was the home town of Loo's mothers. He hopes to stop watching his back and to allow Loo some chance at a normal life. Samuel struggles to outrun his past and his memories. Loo struggles to grow up and to fit in.

In alternating chapter, the book tells the story of Samuel's past and of Loo's coming of age. The book traverses many years of Samuel's life, with each chapter talking about one scar. Each represents a turning point in Samuel's life until it ultimately culminates in his return to Olympus. For Loo, the book works its way through her teenage years, with all the angst and heartache and joy that entails. Each chapter alludes to a lesson Lou learns as part of growing up. Of course, the past and the present meet with Loo attempting to untangle the mystery of her father's past and her mother.

For several reasons, I am not the right reader for this book. First, the violence and the guns. I except it in the story of Samuel's life for he bears the scars. However, I do not expect the violence in and from Loo's story. Guns are a part of every day life. A response to bullying turns into breaking someone's finger. After a while, it is just too much, too much violence and too much of a cavalier attitude towards violence.

Second, the characters remain hidden behind the violence, particularly Samuel. He remains somewhat of an enigma almost all the way through the book. Unfortunately, instead of being intrigued, I lose interest. Each of the chapters of his life seem like they begin with the idea of a crime and end with a wound. It doesn't feel like it gets beyond that until far into the book, and by then, it is too late. On the other hand, Loo is a young women who has lost her mother early in life and who is muddling her way through her teenage years. Her character would be more sympathetic except again for the violence.

Third, until well into the book, Samuel's story and Loo's story seem to travel separate paths. Loo does not appear in Samuel's story until far into the book, and Loo's chapters are more about her teenage life rather than her father's past. They interrelate, of course, but I could read Samuel's chapters sequentially or Loo's chapters sequentially and get a sense of their story. The merging of past and present comes too far in to the book.

All that being said, the writing and phrasing of the book is beautiful at times. However, overall, I am still not the reader for this book.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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