Sunday, December 9, 2018

Fran Hawthorne

Fran Hawthorne spent more than three decades as a reporter and editor (on staff at Fortune and BusinessWeek; as a regular contributor to The New York Times and many other publications), and as the author of award-winning nonfiction books, before finally returning to her childhood dream: writing fiction.

Her debut novel The Heirs was published by Stephen F. Austin State University Press in May 2018 and sold out its first printing within two months. It’s a story of second-generation Holocaust guilt among soccer families in suburban New Jersey in 1999.

Recently I asked Hawthorne about what she was reading. Her reply:
I belong to three book clubs. Plus, I review fiction for the New York Journal of Books. Of course I want to read my friends’ newest oeuvres. And I always try to read books about the Holocaust, Poland, and other topics related to my novel The Heirs and also to the new novel I’m working on –- In short, I can hardly remember the book I read two books ago.

Luckily, I do remember some of the best:

I recently reviewed Gone So Long -- the story of a father’s attempt to reconcile with his long-estranged daughter after he’s been imprisoned for murdering her mother -- by the National Book Award finalist Andre Dubus III. To quote my own review: “Gone So Long has everything a novel could ask for: It’s a literary page-turner that explores the grit and pain of working class lives through complex personalities and beautifully pungent, multisensory language.”

Heretics, by the renowned Cuban writer Leonardo Padura and translated by Anna Kushner, thoroughly bowled over one of my book clubs. We loved the complex, interwoven plot lines stretching from 17th century Amsterdam and Poland, to 21st century Cuba, as well as the detailed historical research. (However, at 545 pages, it does drag on a bit.)

Here’s an advance peek: I’m reviewing a historical novel called Wunderland by the little-known author Jennifer Cody Epstein, coming out in April. I chose it for its Holocaust theme without knowing much about Epstein, and it’s turned out to be a pleasant surprise. As one narrative plunges forward from 1933 Berlin, the other spirals backwards from New York in 1989 to Berlin in 1946, unraveling a daughter’s search to learn about her parents’ Nazi past.

On the other hand, I may be the only critic who did not adore Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach. Yes, it was unfair of me to want another A Visit from the Goon Squad (which I did adore), but I found the heroine of this novel to be annoyingly too perfect.

(Okay, readers: Now you can pile on your criticisms of my novel The Heirs. Fair’s fair.)
Visit Fran Hawthorne's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Heirs.

The Page 69 Test: The Heirs.

--Marshal Zeringue