Read One, Skip One: The Fall of Lisa Bellow and The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

April 6, 2017 Mini Book Reviews 17

Fall of Lisa Bellow, Susan PeraboThe Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo
Fiction – Debut (
Released March 14, 2017)
352 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link:
Source: Publisher (Simon & Schuster)

Plot Summary: After Meredith Oliver witnesses the abduction of a her classmate (but not necessarily friend), Lisa Bellow, she and her entire family struggle to process the impact of being the one left behind.

My Thoughts: I adored Susan Perabo’s short story collection, Why They Run the Way They Do (my review), so was thrilled to hear her first full length novel was coming out this year. While I still prefer Why They Run the Way They Do, The Fall of Lisa Bellow is a psychologically suspenseful novel that gets to the nasty little heart of things (thank you, Catherine!), a type of story I’m always game for. This story is not about what happened to Lisa Bellow, but about the survivors and survivor’s guilt. It’s about the often ungenerous, but brutally honest thoughts, of those who escaped the worst. And, it’s about the minefield of life as a middle school girl. Perabo’s biting portrayal of middle school made me alternately chuckle and cringe…just like actual middle school.

Lisa looked at her. There was the look. This was why everyone hated her. This was why middle school girls had stomachaches when they woke up in the morning. This was why girls were afraid to read the next text, or turn the corner into the cafeteria. This was why Jules could think, why they all could think, all the girls who were not her friends, why they could all secretly think: Good riddance.

My major gripe lies with the publisher’s blurb, which calls The Fall of Lisa Bellow “gripping” and “suspenseful,” leading readers to expect a page turner. The suspense here is the emotional type rather than “what happens next” type, and readers going in expecting the latter will likely be disappointed. I’d call it more of a coming of age novel with a crime in the background than a page turning mystery.

Twelve Lives of Samuel HawleyThe Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti
Fiction (
Released March 28, 2017)
400 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.
Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Publisher (The Dial Press)

Plot Summary: Following a life of crime, Samuel Hawley and his daughter (Loo) move back to Loo’s mother’s hometown of Olympus, Massachusetts, where Loo begins to unravel her father’s past and how her mother died.

My Thoughts: This novel has gotten a ton of pre-publication hype and two fellow bloggers whose tastes I usually agree with loved it (Novel Visits, It’s Tara Leigh). It was also marketed as a coming of age novel / thriller, which sounded right up my alley. Unfortunately, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley was just okay for me and I’m having trouble understanding all the hype.

The story alternates between Loo and Samuel navigating life in Olympus (the “coming of age” portion of the story) and chapters explaining each one of Samuel’s twelve bullet scars (the “thriller” portion of the story), with the two threads converging towards the end. I enjoyed the coming of age aspect (Loo/Samuel sections) of this structure, but after multiple “thriller” chapters (i.e. the bullet sections), I started to get bored with all the violence. With an exception or two, these chapters seemed senseless and the stories began to run together in my head. By the 75% mark, I began skimming just to find out how things would end.

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17 Responses to “Read One, Skip One: The Fall of Lisa Bellow and The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley”

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Yes – I’ve been hearing it around too. But, glad you can go in with expectations more in line with the book.

  1. Susie | Novel Visits

    I really like these read one, skip one posts even when I disagree! You always give such great insight into what worked for you and what didn’t. I’m anxious to see if we’ll agree on Villains.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Awh – thank you! I started Villains today…only 12% in, but I’m totally intrigued!

  2. Tara Caudle

    Again, I’m also so interested to see the different perspectives on a particular piece of literature, either fiction or nonfiction, and I’m calling this a difference in timing, too. I doubt that if I read Hawley right now I’d have the same reaction to it that I did initially. In addition, just finished A Separation and I had a REALLY tough time staying with it, feeling any connection to it, but I think this is timing-related. I need a pick-me-up! Too much doom and gloom in my recent reads and it’s been the same at work…may need to try the one you recommended via text recently. Also, thank you for the shout-out! 🙂

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I hear you on timing. It’s so important. I’ve also been pretty distracted lately, so that’s definitely affected my reading and patience with books.

      I’m sorry A Separation didn’t work for you…I could tell as I was reading that it would turn some people off, but for some reason her rambling ruminations connected with me.

      And – now I can’t remember what book I texted you! Will have to go check.

  3. Naomi

    When publishers try to make a book sound more of a page turner than it really is, it doesn’t do the book any favours. Maybe more people will initially pick it up, but you’ll also get more disappointment in the book. I don’t know why they do that!

  4. Curlygeek04

    I generally agree with you about Samuel Hawley. I got really into Loo’s story but was bothered by the violence and it kept me from sympathizing with Hawley.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I did sympathize with him to a certain extent as at least a portion of his crimes were done to protect his family, but all the violence just started to run together in my head. It just wasn’t interesting to read about yet another shootout.

  5. Antia

    I’ve been seeing good reviews on The Fall of Lisa Bellow, I hope I’ll get to it this summer, my commitments are slowing down quite a bit then.

  6. Stacy (The Novel Life)

    I too have seen the hype for Samuel Hawley novel, but after reading the description it simply didn’t interest me. Glad I skipped it now! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on both novels! I’ll have to pick up the Lisa Bellow one as soon as I can squeeze it in.

  7. Katie @ Doing Dewey

    I’m glad you enjoyed Lisa Bellow and I am interested in the premise, but I’m not sure about picking up something that made you cringe. I’m not a fan of vicarious embarrassment or other middle school woes as a general rule 🙂

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Certainly not a fan of that stuff either…but I think she very accurately portrayed the reality of middle school, which I appreciated.

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