The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

It’s rare to come across a book that explores the relationship between a father and his daughter. Most books focus on mother and son or mother and daughter, but showcasing the father’s role in the upbringing of his child is a rarity. When I found out that this novel explored that connection, it made me think about my own relationship with my father. He’s a quiet man that has sacrificed a great deal for me and my sister. But for all that, I can never say that I know him. I don’t understand him and I don’t think he understands me. One of my biggest regrets has been not being closer to him, the way my friends have been close to their own fathers. My solace is that I have a very close relationship with my mother. In this novel, the teenage daughter Loo has no mother figure, her mother having passed away when she was just an infant. It made me wonder how my relationship with my father would have been had my mother not been in the picture. I wanted to see how exactly the author would go about addressing this, so I’m very grateful to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for giving me the chance to read this ARC.

Samuel Hawley and his daughter, Loo, have always been on the move, never settling down in one place. But all that is about to change when Hawley decides to move to Olympus, Massachusetts, his late wife’s hometown. Here, Hawley finds work as a fisherman, and Loo struggles to fit in at school. Both father and daughter are haunted by the mysterious death of Loo’s mother – and by the 12 scars on Hawley’s body that hint at a dangerous past, one that will eventually spill into the present with dire consequences.

I’ll be honest, at first, I didn’t think I was going to like the book. It started off slow and I began to wonder where the story was going. However, that quickly changed as I became immersed in Loo’s life – and Hawley’s past. We follow Loo from the age of 12 to 17, with interspersing chapters on Hawley’s past transgressions and how he acquired the different scars that mark his body. Both the past and the present were riveting and they complemented each other to allow for an understanding of the bond between this father and daughter. Their relationship was in no way perfect, but it made sense to them, and it made sense to me as a reader. This was an emotionally charged novel that showed various different aspects of a father-daughter relationship that is in itself very unique. The language was beautiful and moving, highlighting the pain and love that both Loo and Hawley feel. There was one aspect of this novel that bothered me a bit and it was the violence exhibited by Loo and her father’s lack of admonishment for her violent tendencies. It made sense in the context of the story and the characters but it was the one thing I wish had been addressed. The level of aggression that Loo shows is quite high and I just wish that someone had helped her deal with that in the story. That is the only negative I had for this novel. Overall, I found this to be an intriguing and deep novel that explored an interesting family dynamic!

Happy reading ~

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