The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

Review From User :

book club is going on NOW!

what a kick-ass heartbreaker of a book.

this would be really good friends with She Rides Shotgun - both are grit-lit coming-of-age novels featuring the relationship between a criminal father and the lessons such a man is able to impart to his young daughter to prepare her for the world and the struggles to come: how to hotwire a car, shoot a gun, or deal emphatically with bullies.

this one is less-grit, more-heart than s.r.s., but loo and polly would definitely have a lot of common experiences to share in the confessional wee hours of a slumber party.

loo hawley is twelve years old at the start of the novel, which will see her through to her seventeenth year. it will also take the reader through the shady details of her father's life before she was born, in alternating chapters structured around samuel hawley's scars; chapters titled bullet number one, bullet number two, all the way to bullet number twelve, defining his life through his wounds.

The marks on her father's body had always been there. He did not show them off to Loo but he did not hide them, either. They reminded her of the craters on the moon that she studied at night with her telescope. Circles made from comets and asteroids that slammed into the cold, hard rock because it had no protective atmosphere. Like those craters, Hawley's scars were signs of previous damage, that had impacted his life long before she was born. And like the moon, Hawley was always circling between Loo and the rest of the universe. Reflecting light at times, but only in slivers. And then, every thirty days or so, becoming the fullest and brightest object in her sky

this structure is the perfect way to tell this story, one so full of love and regret and consequences; the physical and emotional scars that serve as mementos of our most meaningful relationships.

loo and her father have an unconventional way of life, but their relationship is the best kind of father-daughter bond. loo's mother lily drowned when loo was a baby; a death somewhat hazy in detail. loo only knows her mother from the shrine of photographs and personal items that hawley reconstructs in the bathroom of every place they temporarily call home, before hawley's past gets too close for his comfort and they move on once more, taking only the most essential things with them: guns, socks, shrine.

when loo is twelve, hawley decides to make a more traditional, stable life for her in lily's hometown of olympus, massachusetts, where loo's grandmother still lives, and where loo will learn everything a young girl needs to know about love and loyalty, sacrifice and secrets, where she will earn her own scars and carve her mark in the lives of others, where she will come into her own formidable self.

this is beautiful writing. the details of hawley's past which illuminate his later actions are perfect bursts of bittersweet feels, unveiled at just the right time, loo is thoughtful and not overly precocious, everything here just fits perfectly into place and is deeply emotionally satisfying as well as being entertaining as hell. tough and tenacious storytelling, highly recommended by me.


it has been so long since she wrote a book, but it has certainly been worth the wait! review to come!

come to my blog!

A father protects his daughter from the legacy of his past and the truth about her mother’s death in this thrilling new novel from the prize-winning author of The Good Thief.

After years spent living on the run, Samuel Hawley moves with his teenage daughter, Loo, to Olympus, Massachusetts. There, in his late wife’s hometown, Hawley finds work as a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at school and grows curious about her mother’s mysterious death. Haunting them both are twelve scars Hawley carries on his body, from twelve bullets in his criminal past; a past that eventually spills over into his daughter’s present, until together they must face a reckoning yet to come. This father-daughter epic weaves back and forth through time and across America, from Alaska to the Adirondacks.

Both a coming-of-age novel and a literary thriller, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley explores what it means to be a hero, and the cost we pay to protect the people we love most.

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