The Twelve Lives Of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

The Blurb On The Back:

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. 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

13-year-old Loo Hawley is used to moving from town to town, living in motel rooms with her father, Samuel, who makes a living doing odd jobs. So when Samuel decides to move to Olympus, Massachusetts she’s surprised when he reveals that he’s bought a house there, and even more surprised when he reveals that Olympus is the home town of her late mother Lily, whose own mother (Mabel Ridge) still lives there – even though she refuses to have anything to do with Samuel or Loo.

Both father and daughter find it difficult to settle in the town, which is suspicious of both, but attitudes change when Samuel participates in the Greasy Pole contest and in doing so, reveals to the townsfolk the 12 scars that mark his body. Each scar relates to a story from Samuel’s criminal past – a past that hasn’t finished with him or with Loo and which promises a violent reckoning for them both …

Hannah Tinti’s literary thriller is an absorbing and well-structured read that combines Loo’s coming-of-age tale with a look back at the mistakes in Samuel’s past that return to haunt him to form a novel that made me care about the pair of them and kept me gripped from beginning to end.

I really loved the way Tinti structures this novel, interspersing Loo’s teenage years with flashbacks to the story behind each of the 12 bullet wounds that Samuel has suffered. I completely believed in the relationship between the pair, which is well drawn and filled with love even if neither knows how to express it at times. The addition of Mabel, who hates Samuel and blames him for her daughter’s death, adds suspicion between the pair and I loved the slow reveal that Tinti brings to the reasons for Mabel’s antipathy together with the mystery behind Lily’s death (which, although slightly melodramatic, did resonate with me and was in keeping for that character).

I wasn’t quite as convinced by Samuel’s friendship with Jove (who I found underdeveloped), mainly because I wanted to see more of them – especially their criminal misadventures – but I did believe in the gritty, empty lives they led together performing errands and enforcement for bigger criminal fry and the flashback scenes have a lot of sadness and chilling atmosphere. Similarly, Loo’s relationship with Marshall could have been given a little more page time to develop, but it’s sweetly depicted and I did believe in Loo’s pangs of first love.

My only real criticism of the book was the open ending, which in the circumstances seemed a disservice to both Loo and Samuel but that aside, I did thoroughly enjoy this book and will check out Tinit’s other work.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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