Two on One: Our Short History and The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

Two on One: Our Short History and The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

Since Rachel's season of The Bachelorette has already begun filming, it won't be long before she'll be faced with this type of decision; I have to say, I'm not feeling too excited about her prospects, from what I've seen via social media and Reality Steve

If you're familiar with The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise, there are usually a couple of instances during the season when two individuals go on a date with either the bachelor or bachelorette and one of them is sent home; it's called a two on one date, hence the name of this post. 

Both of these novels, neither a debut, published during the month of March; since they have a few themes in common, I thought I would share my experience of them together. Here's a little background on each:

Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein
Published by Algonquin Books (March 21, 2017)
352 pages (Kindle edition)
Advance copy provided by the publisher

Karen Neulander is a successful, New York political consultant; she is also a single parent to son Jake. When she is diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, discovering that her remaining life is now limited to months, she begins writing a memoir to her son while unraveling the emotions she's kept hidden about her son's father. 


The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti
Published by Dial Press (March 28, 2017)
480 pages (Kindle edition)
Advance copy provided by the publisher

Samuel Hawley has been shot twelve times; his skin bears the scars of each wound and they serve to remind him of his mistakes, his regrets. He does not, however, regret the circumstances that provided him with his daughter, Loo, who has been in his care since childhood; the two of them make a great team. Loo would love to know more of her past, of her father's story, and that's where things get interesting, emotionally raw, and breathtaking. 


Similar Themes

  • Single parents and their children; related struggles

  • Death and mortality

  • Grieving the loss of a loved one/ended relationship

  • Harboring secrets

  • Coming-of-age

Selfish people jump into the life raft first. Cowards sneak out the back door. Liars say whatever it takes to get out of trouble. Craven people walk away from what they’ve wrought. But good, morally sound people take responsibility for their actions and stand up for the people they care about, even if they put themselves at risk. Even if they put their own desires second.
Our Short History


  • Both of these authors masterfully crafted their stories; I enjoyed the writing in each of these novels. Grodstein, by virtue of the fact that Our Short History reads, at times, like a memoir from mother to son, easily takes on the role of her protagonist and I often had to remind myself that this is a work of fiction. Similarly, Tinti injects so much passion into the characters of The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley that I felt like I was part of their family; I'm still reflecting on Samuel and his daughter. 
  • Each story provides a valuable perspective that allows the reader to relate to the characters' struggles: Samuel Hawley's background, the past he carries with him, colors his interaction with others and stifles his ability to move forward; Karen (of Our Short History) is forced to confront her past, informing readers of the other, not-so-put-together, side, as she attempts to reframe her life in light of new circumstances. This perspective is highly relatable and I think many readers will connect with these two. 
Their hearts were all cycling through the same madness - the discovery, the bliss, the loss, the despair - like planets taking turns in orbit around the sun. Each containing their own unique gravity. Their own force of attraction. Drawing near and holding fast to whatever entered their own atmosphere.
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley


  • For the first quarter of the novel, I questioned whether I'd be able to stick with The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley; it seemed to drag a little bit and I wasn't sure if it would be worth the time/pages. Trust me when I say that it is! The reward is the beauty found in this novel's second half. 
  • When I say this, please keep in mind that I do not have children: I found myself feeling frustrated, at times, with Karen's overbearing (and somewhat whiny) parental qualities in Our Short History; I recognize that she is facing her own mortality, without much support, but she shares certain qualities with other parents I know that drive me bananas. 

Will You Accept This Rose?

Even though Our Short History has received some excellent reviews, and there were times when I really enjoyed the reading, it wasn't the show-stopper I'd expected; on the other hand, I ended up awarding five stars to The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley (it may end up one of my favorites for the year), which was completely unexpected. The rose goes to The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley and I will definitely recommend it to many others! 


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