The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley is the history of a daughter-father relationship told via alternating episodes, one for her, then one for him. Both daughter (Loo) and father (Sam) have a vicious side: she breaks the finger of a schoolyard tormentor and bashes two other bullies over the head with a sock full of rocks; he beats up several people along the way and kills several others. The story revolves around Loo’s dead mother, Lily, and, on one side, the girl’s desperate search to learn more about her, and, on the other, the father’s morbid efforts to keep her memory alive. All the episodes are entertaining, even if they sometimes stretch credulity. The father, for instance, surely the unluckiest professional crook in the world, is accosted by a whale in one adventure and almost buried in an ice avalanche in another but survives both. While the reader learns a great deal about the pair, most of it fascinating, the conclusion does not really round off the story, leaving a lot to the reader’s imagination. The writing, however, which is sure, flowing, and evocative, definitely makes this a worthwhile read.