This is the story of Samuel Hawley, a man who exists on the fringe of society. He makes collections and deliveries for crooks, and occasionally works as a hit man. And it’s the story of his teenage daughter, Loo, who gradually finds out more about her father and about the circumstances surrounding her mother’s death when Loo was just as infant.
Interwoven with Loo’s story is Hawley’s backstory, which we discover when Loo does. It is related in twelve chapters, each one recounting one of the twelve times Hawley gets shot and lives.
The final chapter–the twelfth of the chapters where he is shot–brings the past story into the present and ties everything together. It’s an oddly compelling structure because it keeps us guessing and we only learn the full story about Hawley and his wife Lily over time, just as Loo does.
There are suspenseful sections, of course, but I wouldn’t characterize the novel as a thriller or a full-blown mystery. But Tinti uses elements of those genres to blend with the family story she unfolds. Ultimately, it’s a very enjoyable tale of family, responsibility, love, adventure, and survival.
On a completely unrelated note, The Dial Press gives the book a naked hardcover that is stunning. If only they’d left it that way and not covered it up with a dust jacket. The dust jacket does have holes in it for the bullet holes, which creates an interesting effect, but I’ve become a fan of naked hardcovers and would like to see more publishers abandon dust jackets and put their design efforts into the hardcovers and endpapers themselves.