Bookpage Review

THE TWELVE LIVES OF SAMUEL HAWLEY
by Hannah Tinti
Dial
$27, 400 pages
ISBN: 9780812989885
Audio, ebook available


Who has more lives than a cat and the bullet scars to prove it? That would be Samuel Hawley, the fascinatingly complicated and morally dubious titular character of Hannah Tinti's gorgeous and gut-wrenching new novel, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley. Having escaped more than his fair share of criminal capers by little more than the skin of his teeth, Hawley has spent most of his life on the lam, pulling up stakes and starting over with his daughter, Loo, whenever a job goes poorly. But when Loo turns 12, Hawley decides a little stability might serve her well and moves them to Olympus, Massachusetts, the small coastal village where Loo's dead mother spent her girlhood. As the two perennial outsiders cautiously become part of a community, the past that Hawley has spent so long running from begins to close in on them. Loo's adolescent misadventures are interspersed with histories of the dozen bullet wounds that decorate Hawley's body, the narrative nimbly flitting between past and present day until the two timelines merge in a deadly and devastating climax. Cinematic in its scope, this expansive novel confidently dwells in the murky liminal spaces of human morality while exploring enduring topics of time, death, love and grief. Tinti has creating a darkly daring (yet oddly uplifting) book that severs as a beguiling study in contrasts and contradictions, one that will leave readers pondering the conundrum of whether her protagonist is a good man who had done bad things or a bad man who has done good things. Expertly infusing old-fashioned storytelling with a modern sensibility, Tinti blends spaghetti Western, literary suspense and mythology to great success. --Stephenie Harrison