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The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley: A Novel Hardcover – March 28, 2017
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An Amazon Best Book of April 2017: “When Loo was twelve years old her father taught her how to shoot a gun.” So begins Hannah Tinti’s masterful, absorbing novel, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley. Hawley has been on the run for decades. He’s had various side-kicks – his con-man partner Jove, the love of his life, Lily – but for the past decade and a half, it’s been his daughter, Loo. When she turns twelve, Hawley buys a house in Olympus, Massachusetts, the hometown of his deceased wife, and settles down for good. But his penchant for violence and his dark past make settling in far from easy. Loo, too, has picked up the ways of her father – but she doesn’t know the half of it. The novel deftly alternates between present day Massachusetts and Hawley’s younger years to tell the story of the twelve bullets that have scarred his body. Tinti’s gritty, deeply flawed characters are rendered with such empathy that it’s impossible not to root for them. The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley is full of action, heart and men and women living on the edge of society. --Al Woodworth, The Amazon Book Review
“Can a man be both a violent criminal and a good father? Imagine a Quentin Tarantino movie crossed with a John Green novel, and you’ll have a sense of what this coming-of-age novel is like.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Tinti depicts brutality and compassion with exquisite sensitivity, creating a powerful overlay of love and pain.” —The New Yorker
“The book [has] an irresistible velocity that Ms. Tinti sustains to the end.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Tinti has established herself as one of our great storytellers. She draws you in with this book, and it’s really difficult to get away.”—Rolling Stone
“A shoot-em-up, a love story and a mystery, this is one heartwarming feast of a book.”—People
“The term ‘literary thriller’ is almost an oxymoron. It’s the writerly equivalent of threading a needle while riding on a rollercoaster, requiring attention to character and fine prose while hurtling from one near-disaster to another. Only a few writers can pull it off, and Hannah Tinti is one of them. . . . The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley is a gripping father-daughter road trip where the bad guys are never far behind. . . . Tarantino-like in its plot twists, action, and violence, the novel sweeps across the country and back and forth in time. Its structure feels as meticulously crafted as a matchstick Taj Mahal.”—Interview
“Tinti makes each of her crime scenes wildly different yet equally suspenseful. As skillful as she is, she never romanticizes her bad actors. What most deeply interests her is the stumbling, fumbling humanity that results in bad actions. . . . She fuses urgent, vibrant storytelling with a keen understanding of broken people desperate to be whole.”—Newsday
“Hannah Tinti’s beautifully constructed second novel . . . uses the scars on Hawley’s body—all twelve bullet wounds, one by one—to show who he is, what he’s done, and why the past chases and clings to him with such tenacity. Nearly nine years after The Good Thief, Tinti has fused a cowboy-noir action adventure and a coming-of-age tale into a father-daughter love story.”—The Boston Globe
“Even before the official release of The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley in March, early readers deemed it worthy of excitement. . . . At once a coming-of-age adventure, a love story and a literary thriller.”—Time
“The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley is a miraculous accomplishment in genre-bending: Not only a gripping American-on-the-run thriller, it’s also a brilliant coming-of-age tale and a touching exploration of father-daughter relationships. Regardless of what your reading tastes are, there’s something here for absolutely everyone.”—Newsweek
“What accounts for this novel’s explosive momentum? . . . [Hannah Tinti] knows how to cast the old campfire spell. I was so desperate to find out what happened to these characters that I had to keep bargaining with myself to stop from jumping ahead to the end. . . . Each [chapter] is a heart-in-your-throat revelation, a thrilling mix of blood and love. . . . Some of these well-drawn characters exist only for a few pages; others rear up again when you least expect them. . . . A master class in literary suspense.”—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“An achingly beautiful story about a single father raising a daughter whom he’s trying to keep from repeating his own mistakes. . . . Tinti’s language is precise and beautiful. She writes rich and nuanced characters. In spite of his past, there’s never any doubt about Hawley’s good intentions and the love he has for his daughter. Their story is a poignant one that readers won’t want to see end.”—The Dallas Morning News
“The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley is an impeccably crafted novel that will thrill new readers and those who have followed Tinti’s work over the years. . . . Set aside a weekend for this captivating novel, because once you start it you won’t want to put it down until you reach the last page. And even then, you’ll want to start again from the very beginning.” —Minneapolis StarTribune
“Tinti’s second novel skillfully channels suspense, longing and loss [and] has all the elements of an Academy Award-winning film: enthralling action, unexpected love and a close examination of the human condition. . . . The bottom line: Tinti is an excellent storyteller. . . . Twelve Lives is a moving, human drama of lives inextricably bound to one another, linked by past and present. It raises essential questions of heroism, family and identity—letting readers seek the answers—and embeds them in a truly magnetic story.” —Kansas City Star
“The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley is an adventure epic with the deeper resonance of myth. . . . Tinti exhibits an aptitude for shining a piercing light into the corners of her characters’ hearts and minds. Her ability to lay bare their passions, portraying their vulnerabilities and violent urges with equal insight, leaves the reader at once shaken and moved.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“The Twelves Lives of Samuel Hawley is a thrillingly told tale that touches on the mythological and the mundane with equally compelling results.”—BuzzFeed
“This is a surprising and celebratory father-daughter story told with astonishing language and scope.”—BBC
“Tinti’s second novel was years in the making, and well worth the wait. . . . This contemporary interpretation of the Greek myth of Hercules, whose twelve labors are represented by Hawley’s twelve bullet wounds, is at once an American epic, a hardboiled crime story, and an exploration of familial love.”—Otto Penzler, LitHub
“[A]n unforgettable novel that is one part coming-of-age, one part mystery, and all parts utter delight.”—PopSugar
“Many love stories, all wrapped up into one gripping narrative that traverses time and space to mediate on life’s most profound questions: those surrounding death, love, and the fleeting nature of everything we hold dear. Tinti’s storytelling is masterful—she weaves together dozens of beautifully drawn characters.”—NYLON
“Tinti knows how to blend emotional connections with engrossing plots.”—The Huffington Post
“[An] atmospheric, complexly suspenseful saga . . . with life or death struggles in dramatic settings . . . and starring a fiercely loving, reluctant criminal and a girl of grit and wonder . . . a breathtaking novel of violence and tenderness.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Seamlessly transposing classical myth into a quintessentially American landscape and marrying taut suspense with dreamy lyricism, [Hannah] Tinti’s beautifully intricate second novel is well worth the wait. . . . Tinti’s imagery evokes time, space, the sea, and the myth of Heracles without losing the narrative’s sure grounding in American communities and culture. This is a convincingly redemptive and celebratory novel: an affirmation of the way that heroism and human fallibility coexist, of how good parenting comes in unexpected packages, and of the way that we are marked by our encounters with each other and the luminous universe in which we dwell.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A riveting character-driven thriller, a father-daughter road trip you won’t soon forget . . . Fans of The Good Thief who have been waiting for whatever comes next from this gifted writer will find their patience richly rewarded.”—Richard Russo, author of Everybody’s Fool
“The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley is one part Quentin Tarantino, one part Scheherazade, and twelve parts wild innovation. Hannah Tinti proves herself to be an old-fashioned storyteller of the highest order.”—Ann Patchett, author of Commonwealth
“What Hannah Tinti knows about fathers, daughters, and time could, as they say, fill a book—and truly does. The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley is bold, exciting, and original.”—Meg Wolitzer, author of The Interestings
“The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley is utterly magnificent—gripping, suspenseful, funny, and so full of heart. Young Loo and her father are contemporary characters with the stature and magnetism of the great heroes of literature. The reader in me was racing through to find out what would befall them, while the writer, awestruck by Hannah Tinti’s powerful storytelling, was desperately trying to slow down. This is a book I will return to again and again, for sheer pleasure and to learn how it is done.”—Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being
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Samuel Hawley is a single dad, raising his beloved daughter Loo. He does all the typical dad things; he goes to work, makes sure she is fed, educated and that she feels loved. Yet, he's definitely not your typical dad. For one thing, he has 12 gunshot scars on various parts of his body, he doesn't talk much about the past, he and Loo move every 6-12 months (usually abruptly in the middle of the night), he has thousands of dollars hidden around the house in jars filled with licorice, and he still pines away for his late wife - who, it should be noted, drowned under ambiguous circumstances.
One day, when she is about 11, Samuel decides Loo needs a permanent home, a place where she can feel like she belongs and is a part of the community. He picks a small New England, where, as it turns out, her mother grew up and her estranged grandmother still lives.
The book, in alternating chapters, tells both the story of Loo coming of age in that small town and of how Samuel acquired each of his gun shot wounds.
WHAT I LOVED
All the characters are well written, particularly Samuel. Samuel is such a complex character, he is clearly a criminal, not opposed to violence, and yet he is a very loving husband and father. I kept routing for him, wanting him to get away with his crimes and finding myself sympathizing with him.
My heart went out to motherless Loo. Particularly after "meeting" her mother Lily. Lily was a great, loving mother. Loo's life would have taken a completely different, easier course if her mother had lived longer. While Loo was loved by her father, without a mother's influence, she was so "rough around the edges," it was hard for her to settle into a normal teenage life.
Marshall was another complicated character. I could never really figure him out other than to understand how badly he craved acceptance from everyone and how he tried to please his mother even when his heart was not in it. I think he was mostly a lost kid who had yet to find his place in the world.
The chapters about the gun shot wounds were faster paced and typically has me on the edge of me seat. The Loo chapters should have been easier for me to read yet I kept finding myself cringing at her social awkwardness and her lack of general decorum.
Typically I tear through books, yet this one made me want to slow down to take it all in. I think my desire to slow down can be attributed to the writing. Without being overly 'flowery,' the descriptions were very real and detailed, making me feel as though I was there and involved in these characters lives.
WHAT I DIDN'T LOVE
I would have rated this book much higher had the ending given me better closure. Here I was, totally wrapped up in Loo and Samuel's lives and then I'm left with loose ends. I do usually like a more defined ending, and in this book it bothered me even more than it usually does because I was pretty darn invested.
I'm not sure exactly what the genre was; it was part thriller, part coming if age, part chick-lit. I would think that anyone who likes those genres could find something to like about this book.
I recall another QT scene, in "Pulp Fiction" where a guy and his gal rob a diner they were patronizing. Samuel Hawley meets his intended in a bar - a brawl breaks out, shooting, and she rescues him by pulling up in a huge dump truck, snow plow attached (the truck was her inheritance from dad, very recently deceased.) Strangely enough, there are no naughty words in TL, nor graphic sex, but QT could fix that. I haven't seen QT's latest, only trailers, but they came to mind when Hawley collected bullet 10 or 11 in the prairie dog scene....
So what's the plot like? How's the book structured? There are alternating chapters and early on we learn that Hawley has a dozen bullet wounds; and so we learn how he got bullet one, bullet two etc These are interlaced with chapters on present time with a focus on Hawley's daughter Louise known as Loo. It's just the two of them; Mom died early on, and the how of her death is the Big Reveal late in the story. At an early age Loo is taught to fend for herself. She can shoot each and every one of Hawley's dozen or so weapons in his rather eclectic arsenal. And she's a fighter. She beats up not just one, but two boys who were teasing her, and she breaks another guy's finger while he is unconscious. I never cared much for either Loo nor Hawley, nor did I care for their relationship; there's nobody here you'd want for a next door neighbor. Anyway, they're always on the move, mostly because of Hawley's job and specifically some of his disappointed business contacts. And what exactly is his job? Well, he's a middle man of sorts. His job is to exchange ill-gotten merchandise for buckets of cash, or vice versa; a lot of these deals don't come off as planned.
Two last comments on the book. Personally, I think this twist thing is overdone. It's even gotten to the point where you can't write an Amazon review without rating "twists". There aren't many twists in this book, and those that are there, are no big surprise, so too bad for you twist people. Secondly, there are a number of unexplained and/or hard-to-believe episodes. These too didn't bother me because I had written the book off for other reasons. For example, it is hard to believe that if someone is shot a lot of times then that person is going to require a lot of medical care; that implies police notification. That requirement is explained away in the book once or twice, but other times recovery wasn't even dealt with. Anyway, while I acknowledge that the prose and dialog in TL were both quite good, I just can't recommend this to anyone and will likely not read Tinti again.