The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley that author Hannah Tinti writes about in this book are represented by twelve scars from bullet holes which he carries on his body. Having had a rough life and been involved in criminality Sam Hawley wants to settle down in the town where his late wife grew up, with his daughter Loo. His bathroom is a shrine to his wife but Loo never knew her and feels that she knows nothing about her. She also knows very little about her father and they have spent years moving from one place to another, leaving quickly and then restarting somewhere else. This new town represents a new beginning but also an opportunity for Loo to learn something about her past as well as herself.
Some of this book is a coming of age story as Loo grows older and begins to emerge into adulthood. Not only does she have to adjust but so does her father and Loo has also begun to make the acquaintance of her grandmother who may be able to tell her more about her mother. Mingling with this story is Sam’s story – the author describes it by narrating the series of events every time he is shot. This is a very interesting way to present these two stories but I feel that it works well and the author then brings both storylines together as people from Sam’s past break into their present.
Sam is not an admirable man if you look at what he has done but when you consider the circumstances and the fact that it seems the only way for him to live you can see why he does what he does. He is frightened that he will lose his memories of his wife and also frightened to be in charge of a young woman. Sometimes he does the right thing and at other times he doesn’t and maybe he reaches a bit too quickly for violence as the solution to his problems. Loo is lost and adrift but as she comes to understand her father better, learn about her mother and find her own feet in the adult world she becomes strong.
I enjoyed this book a lot. I liked the way that each bullet has its own story and how the little episodes all feed into the larger narrative. I felt for Loo as she tried to work out who she is and who her father is while always feeling the loss of a mother. All the people in this book are flawed and their flaws sometimes lead them into situations where it is hard to escape. I felt that it was realistic and authentic.
This is a good novel which is very well constructed to provide a really satisfying read.