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.
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I genuinely didn’t know what to expect with The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley when I picked it up. Clearly I had liked what I’d seen as I had a copy of the book for review, but I hadn’t reread the PR sheet before I started.
I was so SO unprepared for the journey my heart would take with this one. It’s funny, because I’ve seen some reviews since I finished this book, and people didn’t enjoy it. I on the other hand, devoured it. From start to finish I was completely invested in it. The story, the characters, the whole thing just grabbed me.
The format for TTLOSH (yes I’m shortening it because I’ll keep mentioning it!) is partly what made it for me. Told using alternating chapters, the reader is taken on two journeys. Samuel Hawley’s past and how he got to where he is, and the present told through Loo’s eyes. Perfectly crafted, this dual narrative barrels towards an unexpected conclusion. No spoilers in saying that, I just didn’t see where it was going.
There are so many themes running through TTLOSH. There is a crime element (yay!), but there is so much more. I found Loo’s voice read like a YA novel. It chronicled love, loss, relationships, friendships, grief and the relationship between her and her dad.
Reading Loo’s thoughts was like going back in time to my teenage self. When I say that, I mean the inexplicable feelings and turmoil that takes place when you’re young. Learning lessons, figuring out your place in the world, who takes up space in your heart and so on. I also found her childish sense of wonderment regarding the sky/solar system and the sea to be so endearing, and completely familiar because I get that. I look up regularly, and we truly are infinite in a world of stars.
Samuel ‘s chapters were a whole different voice, as you would expect, but equally gripping. With a past like his, it would be difficult not to be hardened to people and life in general, but these chapters break down his walls brick by brick. I am loath to choose who I liked reading about more to be honest but by the end of TTLOSH I was definitely leaning towards Samuel.
It’s taken me a couple of weeks to get this review together, and I’d be lying if I said it was easy. This book has stayed with me though. I find myself thinking about it quite regularly, and I think that’s the sign of a great book. Immersive, solid, emotional and gripping, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley has been one of my favourite reads this year.