This is the ancient myth of Hercules — the plot of all plots — re-engineered into a modern-day wonder. Tinti knows how to cast the old campfire spell. I was so desperate to find out what happened to these characters that I had to keep bargaining with myself to stop from jumping ahead to the end ... a master class in literary suspense. Hercules himself might feel daunted by the labor of writing tales for 12 bullets, but Tinti is indefatigable. Each one of these stories drops us into a different setting somewhere in the country, establishes a tense situation in progress and then barrels along until slugs start tearing into flesh. Given the repetition, you would think we would come to anticipate Tinti’s methods and grow weary with these near-escapes, but each one is a heart-in-your-throat revelation, a thrilling mix of blood and love ... This would all be empty calories if Tinti weren’t also such a gorgeous writer, if she didn’t have such a profound sense of the complex affections between a man wrecked by sorrow and the daughter he hoped 'would not end up like him.'”
...[a] beautifully constructed second novel...Tinti has fused a cowboy-noir action adventure and a coming-of-age tale into a father-daughter love story ... The scenes of his mayhem are gory, with no shortage of innocent people permanently harmed — and this, actually, is one of the novel’s most distinctive features. Aside from the final action sequence, which is pure Hollywood-style derring-do set on the ocean (and includes one plot twist, involving a temporary inability to navigate, that feels bizarrely false), Tinti never glamorizes violence. She forces us to look at the damage wrought, to hear the crunch of bone, to see the copious blood, to take in the bystanders, now broken or dying or dead.
...an intricate mélange of propulsive thriller and sophisticated character study, narrated à la mode from shifting points of time and place and dusted lightly with supernatural suggestion ... the mise-en-scène is full of vibrant visual detail, the characters are idiosyncratic, and the climax is as heartwarming as it is unexpected — Tinti’s novel seems premade for the screen (so long as the cinematic realization is in the hands of a director who can somehow channel Hitchcock, Michael Curtiz, and Ingmar Bergman) ... The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley displays such a high degree of polish any trace of the maker’s hand is removed. Every sentence perfect, every circumstance layered with meaning, effect, intrigue, and forward motion. Can a writer be too good?
Tinti makes each of her crime scenes wildly different yet equally suspenseful. As skillful as she is, she never romanticizes her bad actors. What most deeply interests her is the stumbling, fumbling humanity that results in bad actions ... Like Russell Banks or Richard Russo, she urges us to be open to the humanity beneath the screw-up, the kernel of goodness beneath the lawbreaker. Her ordinary people just want to be loved ... Tinti’s own considerable strengths make us care about the outcome. She fuses urgent, vibrant storytelling with a keen understanding of broken people desperate to be whole.
Despite the fact that the world Tinti has created in Twelve Lives is vastly different than my own (and even, perhaps, any world in which I would choose to live), she has cleverly illustrated the tender relationship between a father and his little girl, the respect a daughter has for her dad, and the lengths that both of them will travel to protect one another ... Secrets can’t keep forever, and Twelve Lives comes to its climax as Hawley and Loo each begin to learn more about the things the other has tried to hide. The beauty in this book comes to the surface in the face of real physical danger, as father and daughter demonstrate their love and trust for one another. There are few questions asked between, no judgments made—they simply do what’s necessary to stay together.
With life-or-death struggles in dramatic settings, including a calving glacier, and starring a fiercely loving, reluctant criminal and a girl of grit and wonder, Tinti has forged a breathtaking novel of violence and tenderness.
The rapid-fire switching between the story lines gives the book an irresistible velocity that Ms. Tinti sustains to the end, by which point she’s settled the last of Hawley’s old scores. What works less well is the book’s gesturing toward mythology. Ms. Tinti has modeled the flashbacks to Hawley’s gunfights on the 12 labors of Hercules, and though those connections are tenuous ... Ms. Tinti is on surer ground detailing Hawley and Loo’s unusual relationship.
The story is bound together by memory as a kind of highlight film. Which is to say, by memory as it actually is and not as a neat, banal narrative or a huge baroque melodrama ... [Tinti] has a deep feeling for the passage of time and its effect on character. And when it’s appropriate, she can use her vivid language to express the ripping depth of human pain. As this strikingly symphonic novel enters its last movement, the final bars remind us that of all the painful wounds that humans can endure, the worst are self-inflicted. The evidence is there in the scar tissue that pebbles the body of Samuel Hawley, and there too in the less visible scars on his heart.
We wear our emotional pains and struggles in our bodies, Tinti means to argue, and scene to scene the novel is graceful and observant. But a dozen bullet wounds also represents a lot of metaphorical heavy lifting in addition to the other overt symbols that lard the narrative (watches, gloves, disorienting carnival rides, a whale, etc.), and at times such detail overshadows Loo’s budding relationship and push and pull with Lily’s mother; a subplot involving a petition to stop overfishing gets short shrift. The novel is at its strongest when it focuses on Sam and Lily or Loo, whether they’re getting out of scrapes or plotting their next move. But for a story about a man who has to travel light, it carries plenty of baggage. An accomplished if overstuffed merger of coming-of-age tale and literary thriller.
Tinti’s second novel skillfully channels suspense, longing and loss as it follows Samuel Hawley and his daughter, Loo, attempting to settle down in small-town Massachusetts after years on the road evading a mysterious past ... bullet episodes read more like short stories than chapters in a novel, keeping the work fresh and alive and providing expansive settings — from Arctic glacier to Arizona motel to Atlantic pier ... Tinti’s writing is strong and measured; for her, the sentence is not so much a grammatical unit as a rhythmic one. Periods mark almost vocal pauses, as if the entire book were being recounted to a captive fireside audience. The novel’s images intertwine across space and time, colliding in unexpected and satisfying ways ... a moving, human drama of lives inextricably bound to one another, linked by past and present. It raises essential questions of heroism, family and identity — letting readers seek the answers — and embeds them in a truly magnetic story.
...an impeccably crafted novel that will thrill new readers and those who have followed Tinti’s work over the years ... While some authors lead characters down a path to unfortunate caricatures, Tinti’s light touch keeps them memorable without overplaying their roles ... There are so many concurrent story lines in “The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley” that to reveal too many details here would risk stealing the reader’s pure enjoyment of such an adventurous and transformative tale. I will warn you to set aside a weekend for this captivating novel, because once you start it you won’t want to put it down until you reach the last page.
Tinti is a masterful storyteller who deftly weaves Louise 'Loo' Hawley's coming of age against the backdrop of her father Samuel's criminal history and his search for redemption ... Tinti's language is precise and beautiful. She writes rich and nuanced characters. In spite of his past, there's never any doubt about Hawley's good intentions and the love he has for his daughter. Their story is a poignant one that readers won't want to see end.
Seamlessly transposing classical myth into a quintessentially American landscape and marrying taut suspense with dreamy lyricism, Tinti’s beautifully intricate second novel is well worth the wait ... This is a convincingly redemptive and celebratory novel: an affirmation of the way that heroism and human fallibility coexist, of how good parenting comes in unexpected packages, and of the way that we are marked by our encounters with each other and the luminous universe in which we dwell.
Tinti expertly doles out and withholds information, dropping clues and amplifying the suspense with each backward-looking interlude, until all the details fall into place and drive the action to its explosive climax. Full of unpredictable twists, each 'bullet chapter' complements the next step in Loo’s coming-of-age story. In less skilled hands, the mix of genres might grate, but Tinti justifies each of her choices. Funny, suspenseful and heartbreaking, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley is an engrossing story, a deeply pleasurable yarn, the kind that’s easy to get lost in. Tinti has set herself a herculean literary task, and she accomplishes it, not with brute force, but with wit, aplomb and a love of adventure.