A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley- Feature and Review


A father protects his daughter from the legacy of his past—and the truth about her mother’s death—in this thrilling new novel from the prize-winning author of The Good Thief.

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.



The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley: A NovelThe Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley: A Novel by Hannah Tinti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti is a 2017 Dial Press publication.

This is an unusual novel, a ‘coming of age’ story AND a ‘literary thriller’ as the synopsis says. Once I started reading it, I had a hard time putting it down. I kept wondering how this was all going to end, and what would become of the characters in the meantime.

But, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was that made this book work, exactly. It’s fast paced, action packed, one minute, then switches instantly to a poignant father/daughter dynamic, which was at once sad and tender. What an odd combination, right?

Yet, it is a riveting tale. The characters are well drawn, but a bit enigmatic. Samuel, who recounts how he came to have all those bullet holes, relates his violent and criminal past, including the way he met Loo’s mother, married her, became a father, a widow, and then a grieving single parent. Samuel is a flawed and conflicted man, who has made some very regrettable choices, but will do anything to protect his daughter. He is dangerous, criminal, and violent, but had me rooting for him in the same way we often secretly cheer for the antihero.

Loo is a scrappy girl who has endured relentless and cruel bullying, is equally scarred emotionally by the nomadic and isolated life she has lived with Samuel, wanting to have friends, and wishing for any type of information about the mother she never knew. Her questions about her mother's past and her untimely death will lead to a few hard revelations.

Eventually, Samuel’s past comes to roost and Loo may very well get caught in the crossfire. But, maybe, just maybe, her unorthodox upbringing will not be naught as the stronger, better qualities that live within Samuel will shine through in his daughter.

This is certainly an interesting book, not exactly fitting into the ‘literary thriller’ role as I have come to think of it, but it is still jammed packed with criminal elements and suspense. The promised ‘coming of age’ aspects do slightly edge out the rougher spots, which left me feeling slightly melancholy, but hoping for the best on Loo's behalf.

Overall, the writing here is exquisite, and the story is one that, along with the vivid characterizations will linger in my mind for some time to come.





Hannah Tinti is the author of the short story collection Animal Crackers and co-founder and editor in chief of One Story magazine. Her best-selling novel, The Good Thief, is a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, winner of the Quality Paperback Bookclub New Voices Award, winner of the Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize, and a recipient of the American Library Association's Alex Award. Her new novel, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, will be published in March 2017 by The Dial Press. For more information visit www.hannahtinti.com


  1. I enjoyed this one too but it was...different! I liked the characters and was very interested in finding out what happened to Loo's mom and where the characters ended up. Thanks

    1. Stephanie,
      I love your avatar! I'm so glad you enjoyed this book, too. Thank you for stopping by The Book Review today!


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