Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Review: The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
by Hannah Tinti

Why did you choose this book? This was a book club selection for the online Riffle book club  
When did you read this book? May 2017
Who should read this book? Readers who enjoy complex stories worthy of discussion
Source: Publisher
My Rating: ✰✰✰½   3½ Stars

Here is a synopsis of The Twelve Live of Samuel Hawley from Goodreads

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.

My Review

I read this one several months ago, but have not reviewed it until now because I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I read the book or the online Riffle book club. One thing I can say is that had it not been for the book club, I would have skipped this one. Nothing about the synopsis pulled me in, but I’d had an excerpt in my mailbox, so I read it. That would have been the end of it for me, but I was offered a copy of the book in order to participate in the book club. Even though I still have mixed feelings about the book, I can say it is an excellent book club selection!

Most of the characters in this book were not particularly likeable—and yet I ended up liking them! This was particularly true of Samuel Hawley, a man with a criminal past who collected bullets with his body! He was not great father material, hopping from location to location with his daughter, never giving her any stability in her early childhood years. If I met him in real life, I’d run the other way, and dislike him very much. But at the end of the book, I really cared what happened to him! I felt similarly about his daughter, Loo. She had a rough childhood and was not a girl I’d want to hang out with, but still, I cared about her and her story.

One thing that annoyed me about this book was the ambiguous ending. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that as the book ended, I really didn’t know what happened. I really wish the author would have been explicit about what happened to the characters, and perhaps even written an epilogue letting us know what happened in the characters’ futures.

As I said, this would make an excellent book club selection. Our online group discussed everything from character motivations, our feelings about the characters, and the ambiguous ending. This discussion is still online, so if you read the book, hop on into the discussion. You can find it here. There are author’s notes and discussion questions included in the book. Visit the author’s website where you will find a reader’s guide and a q&a with the author.  

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in order to participate in the initial online Riffle book club.
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  1. Interesting... I'm not sure if this is one I would love but I guess the only way to find out is to check it our right?

    1. Truthfully, I didn't love it either! And I'm not sure I would have found it worthwhile had I just picked it up and read it....I might not have even made it through the book. But as a book club pick, it was great! Having other people to discuss it with makes all the difference!

  2. Honestly, I received this for the book club and then just couldn't bring myself to read it. I'd read some negative reviews before I got to it and once I had it, I was also less in the mood for it. I feel bad about it though since I had agreed to review it!

    1. I understand! I didn't think I was going to make it all the way through, but breaking it up into short sections over the month and discussing it with others really helped!

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  4. When you end up liking the unlikable characters, it feels so strange.

  5. I was ambivalent about the entire novel. A talented author, though, even if I wasn't especially enthusiastic about this book.

    1. I agree, the book wasn't one I'd normally enjoy. And truthfully, I didn't particularly enjoy this one. But I did enjoy our online discussion!