Let’s Talk About… The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

I received an e-ARC of this novel from Random House through NetGalley, as well as the image I featured above. I was initially interested because the blurb was about the family relationship and made it seem like a story with some mystery. This was true to some extent, but there was also a larger amount of violence and murder than I had originally expected. I suppose, in my mind, I hadn’t imagined Hawley would be a hit man, but that’s basically what he was. Here’s the description from Goodreads

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. This father-daughter epic weaves back and forth through time and across America, from Alaska to the Adirondacks. 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 cost we pay to protect the people we love most.

Overall, I have pretty mixed feelings about this novel. I never really fell in love with the characters, but I felt that I had to see how the story ended. I wanted to know what happened to Loo’s mother and why Hawley was such a bad father, but Loo was so loyal to him. Once I hit the halfway point, I had hoped I would like the characters more, but they still seemed too obscure for me to really understand them. Even though there are several chapters that go into the backstory of each bullet, I still felt as though I hardly knew Hawley and that he had very little character development from his criminal past-self. I was intrigued by the mystery, and so I stuck it out until the end. This is mainly a story about family loyalty above all else, but I never felt like I bought into most of it. I could understand being loyal to those who love you and who raised you, but there was an emotional detachment in Hawley that made him seem too cold to even be capable of real parental love. He was a rough man, who was really only present in his daughter’s life when she was causing trouble. And then when he rescued Loo from trouble, he taught her how to hot-wire cars or shoot an automatic rifle.

All of this said, I gave it a decent star rating, becuase I thought it was well written and planned out (albeit slightly wordy at some points in my opinion). I personally didn’t need such detailed descriptions of each character that ever came up in the whole novel, but I can’t judge too harshly on that.


My rating: 3 stars

Loo: Loo had a pretty uncommon childhood with a father that was constantly running from his own past. I didn’t really like Loo, pretty much ever. She was selfish and lacked any kind of empathy. I know that this was a representation of how she was raised. Hawley was a rough x-criminal/hit man (I really don’t know what to call him) and so he was not the best father. Whatever. But I hated the way Loo acted around her peers in school. That she thought it was okay to break people’s noses and fingers. Yes, she was being bullied, but no, she didn’t have to almost kill people with a rock in a sock or steel-toed boots to get revenge. It’s hard to really express my thoughts here but she was a frustrating character. The only time we ever really see her express emotion is with her boyfriend.Loo and Marshall were the quintessential high school couple. They got together, got into trouble together, but in the end, they had choose whether to be loyal to each other or their families. Marshall chose to help his mom, and it crush Loo but she stayed by her father’s side too.  She did have that obsession with stars and astronomy that helped her save her father. I was glad that all the buildup about her studying her mother’s planisphere and and the books she had read about the stars helped her to get back to shore when her father was dying. At least that was kind of full circle.

Hawley: kinda wish he’d just died at the end. The whole thing was pretty anti climactic. I thought for a bit that bullet number twelve was going to bring the story to a close and say that his twelfth life was his last etc. but it felt like an anticlimactic end. I’ll insert here that I never liked Jove much, so I wasn’t moved by his death. I felt that most of this novel was this way. There were plenty of scenes that were thrilling and suspenseful, but they always ended in plot convenience. I felt like several of those bullets should have killed him. You know, the one where he was out in the middle of nowhere Alaska and some old man just happened to stumble upon him. He would have been dead. The one where he could have drowned but Lily died instead. Dead. There was always some kind stranger to come help Hawley get to a hospital, or fix him up themselves. It was like they were all used to finding people shot and bleeding and took care of these things all the time.

Lily: It’s really too bad she Lily died because I think she was my favorite character. She was reckless and rebellious against her upbringing, sure, but she was the only character that had any real humanity and empathy. She loved her daughter more than anything, and Hawley’s demons killed her. She cared about Hawley too and wanted him to become better, which he sort of did while they were married but then he totally backslid and went back to the way he was before. He had no character development, while I think Lily—though her presence in the novel was brief—had tremendous development.

Mable ridge: Loo’s grandmother is another character I liked, but I also sort of didn’t like her. She is cold because of the way Hawley treated her. I get that. And I’m glad that she was eventually the person to put the pieces together for Loo and tell her that everything wasn’t sunshine and roses with Hawley. He was a bad guy before, and he also abandoned his daughter for four years and conveniently took her back right before she started having real cognitive memories and would never have known he was gone at all. I suppose I just wish Mable Ridge had been less cold to Loo. Her granddaughter was not at fault for her father’s actions, she hardly even knew about her family outside of Hawley at all. He blocked it all out of her life, but Mable Ridge insisted on taking out her anger on Loo until she finally told her the truth about what Hawley had done after Lily died.

I don’t have much else to say. The plot was alright, but sometimes I lost track of the details because I was constantly being switched between past and present. I had a hard time remembering what had happened to each character and in what order.

Let me know what you though if you have read The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley!

Katie x


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