The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti reviewed

The Twelve Bullets of Samuel Hawley Book Cover The Twelve Bullets of Samuel Hawley
Hannah Tinti
Tinder Press
April 6, 2017

Bursting with imaginative exuberance, THE TWELVE LIVES OF SAMUEL HAWLEY by Hannah Tinti has been described as 'One part Quentin Tarantino, one part Scheherazade' (Ann Patchett) and will appeal to fans of The Sisters Brothers or The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. 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.

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti opens with Hawley teaching his daughter, Loo, how to shoot a rifle. The style is laconic and understated. I found it a promising start. Mine was a draft copy so I’m not sure how the book will be finally arranged. However, in mine, there were effectively alternating chapters in the main. One aspect was about Hawley and Loo’s lives in current time in the main. The other aspects was mainly Hawley’s life arranged in bullets! Hawley has twelve bullet wounds on his body so the chapters tell the story around each of those bullet holes. I found the approach interesting and easy to read.

Over the course of this book I grew to really like both Loo and Hawley. They are interesting, well written and develop nicely over the book. The more peripheral characters are also good. I found the writing throughout the book atmospheric. Loo’s development as a teenager with all its angst came over well. Hawley – this is a fairly violent criminal at times – I grew to really like; that is good writing.

In a sense this is a straightforward tale of a man and his daughter’s lives in some ways. However this has a far deeper level to it in my mind. This is about a man coming to know his daughter and about that daughter coming to understand her father. This book can be tender and brutal within a few words. After that can come beauty, humour and sadness – the writing is lovely.

How far do you have to run to get far enough away and what might a father really do for his daughter? Hawley moving from wandering criminal to the person he is in the present day is a great journey. To call the ending powerful is certainly not overstating it.

There are books that I say I was drawn in to however this one has taken me deeper than many I’ve said that about. Loo is a very good, credible character and works well for me. However Hawley really does take the biscuit. Here is a gun toting criminal looking after his young daughter. The more I learnt about both of their lives the more I liked them both – very good writing indeed. 4.5/5 for me and I’d like to read another book by Hannah Tinti.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review