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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
When we first meet Hannah, she is fighting traffic on her way to her grandmother's funeral. She is bringing her grandmother's embalmed canary, which, according to family legend, alerted her grandfather to toxic fumes in the coal mine her grandmother owned. Hannah is dreading the family gathering and thinks her mother sees the funeral as a kind of bonding experience. Hannah adored her funny, adventurous father and used to fly with him in the family plane. She was crushed when he died in a plane accident, leaving her, her brother and sister in the care of their alcoholic mother. Now that they are all grown, visits with the family tend to turn into dramas leading to subsequent texts, phone calls and emails, but Hannah hasn't figured out how to distance herself from it all. Her love life is also not terribly exciting. After a disastrous marriage, she is now in a rather dull and predictable relationship with a man who doesn't have what it takes to make her pulses sing. When Hannah's car breaks down on the way to the funeral, everything gets turned upside down, but in what could be the best possible way.
I was probably about 20 or 30 pages into "Wild Nights" when I realized that this could turn out to be a really outstanding book - and it just got better from there. Hannah is brash, funny and wise all at once, and her relationships with her friends are a hoot. The family scenes also play true to life, both the tragic and the comic, which are not always kept separate. While the timeline of "Wild Nights' is about a year, Hannah's life is eventful, and the reader is brought along when she travels to Hawaii on Christmas vacation and then to India where she works with her mentor and friend, Margaret. The descriptions of both places will have any reader lazily drifting on warm, Hawaiian waves, and walking the crowded, dusty streets of India. I spent all day yesterday wrapped up in "Wild Nights" and reluctantly finished the last page late last night, Hannah and Jon and the rest of the characters peopling this work still alive and fresh in my mind. This is an extraordinary work.