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. 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 price we pay to protect the people we love most.
This novel had one of the most wonderful beginnings I’ve read in quite some time. As soon as I started reading The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, I knew it would be a highly unique story. Hours later, I had finished it and I knew I had been right: I had never read something quite like this. However, my initial delight wasn’t always present, as I admit I struggled a bit because of its length.
I wouldn’t say this is a mystery; it’s more like a coming of age story and a contemporary action thriller: The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley is a tale about family, loneliness and fitting in. The writing by Hannah Tinti is brilliant and the characters are simply unforgettable. I think we can expect a film sometime in the next few years.
Who are the main characters? Let’s introduce you to Samuel Hawley and Loo (father and daughter). They’ve just moved to Olympus, Massachusetts and they’re having a hard time fitting in. Years pass (Loo is twelve at first and seventeen in the last chapter) while we’re witness of their struggles and endless adventures. At the same time, there are some flashback chapters where we learn about Samuel’s 12 lives (bullet scars that he carries on his body). Initially, I thought this flashbacks were a great idea, but the more I read, the more these parts felt repetitive. For once, I was more interested in the present story, especially Loo’s “coming of age”.
As I said, Loo was simply amazing (independent, strong and complex) and, even though we didn’t get to know her that much, Mabel Ridge was also a character I wanted to know more about. The mystery surrounding Loo’s mother, Lily, was one of my favorite aspects of the book. And I appreciated how the author made no excuses for anyone’s behavior. After all, when you love someone, you’re able to overlook their mistakes… Blood is thicker than water.
In the end, I think I will remember this book because there’s something quite special about it. It hasn’t been my favorite read of the year, but I’m not sure I’ll read something quite like it anytime soon. And that’s not something you can say often.
Netgalley, Tinder Press, 2017