Contemporary, Literary Fiction

Review: The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

A novel that showcases a unique father-daughter relationship.

Disclaimer: I received an eARC copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. This blog contains affiliate links. I make a small commission when you decide to buy books via the Amazon or Book Depository purchase links available in the book review's post.

Most books focus on mother and son or mother and daughter, but showcasing the father’s role in the upbringing of his child is a rarity. When I heard about this novel, it made me think about my own relationship with my father – I’ve always wished we were closer. This novel made me wonder how my relationship with my father would be different had my mother not been in the picture.

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley book cover

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

by Hannah Tinti

Published February 28, 2017 by Dial Press
ISBN: 0812989880

Data from Goodreads

Summary (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.

My Review:

The Pros: What worked for me

  • This story has beautiful prose that carries a ton of emotion. The language was beautiful and moving, highlighting the pain and love that both Loo and Hawley feel.
  • As the story progressed, I found it easy to become immersed in Loo’s life – and Hawley’s past. We follow Loo from the age of 12 to 17, with interspersing chapters on Hawley’s past transgressions and how he acquired the different scars that mark his body. Both the past and the present were riveting and they complemented each other nicely.
  • To say this was a unique take on the quintessential father-daughter relationship would be an understatement. There is a perfectly imperfect balance between the 2 of them and I could really feel the strength of their bond.

The Cons: What I didn’t like

  • The beginning of the story was extremely slow and I was quite tempted to just stop reading.
  • I was uncomfortable with Loo’s violence and Hawley’s lack of admonishment. While it made sense in the context of the story, it just didn’t seem right that no one tried to help Loo deal with this behaviour.

This was an interesting dynamic to explore and I think the author has produced a very unique piece of work here. It had its low points but overall, I enjoyed the story. I’m giving it 3/5 stars.

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