The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti
I have a confession to make..... I have had a very good reading year so far. I have read some very very very good books. And every time I start a book I am worried that it will not live up to my year of reading. However, that was not the case with The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti. This book grabbed me from the start, and did not let go. It hits you with a punch and keeps knocking you down with every turn of the page.
This book is the story of two people: Samuel Hawley- a father, a husband and a criminal. His story is half of this novel. The other half is his daughter - Loo. She has lived most of her life on the run from her father's past and her mother's memory. At the start of the book, her father has finally decided that they are going to settle down in the town that Loo's mother is from and where her grandmother lives.
The book has a very clever set up. Half of the story is set during Loo's teenage years in her new home town. And it is a tale of fitting in, learning about who she is and where she comes from. Loo has never had to be a normal teenage girl, and she struggles to interact with people and create relationships. She also lives in the shadow of her mother, who was well known in the town and her ghost haunts Loo as she grows up. How to you compete with someone that you don't really remember?
Part two of the book is told in flash backs. Samuel Hawley has 12 gunshot wounds, and these chapters tell how he received each of them. But also in these sections is the story of how Samuel became the man he is. It starts with how he gets in trouble with the law and moves through meeting Loo's mother up to current times. It is a very clever way to build the story, and the family history. Both sections are equally powerful, and in rotating back in forth Ms. Tinti keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Ms. Tanti's language is beautiful and drives the story forward with a steady force and grace. She is so good at getting you to a location with quick details and descriptions that she builds the scene for you with a swift stroke. She also does a great job of switching character's voices - from teenage angst to a grown man fleeing his criminal past - each voice is distinct and so well though out. It really is a beautifully written book.
In the end, Samuel cannot continue to outrun his past and both he and Loo have to deal with it and move on. Also, Loo learns about her mother and who her father really is and what that means to who she is and who she will become. Since finishing the book I have sat at home wondering about Loo and Samuel. And this is the greatest compliment I can give this novel, I am still obsessed with the characters and hope that I will see them again some day.
Book Rating: 5 books