The Six Granddaughters of Cecil Slaughter

Susan Hahn. Fifth Star (SPU, dist.), $22 (272p) ISBN 978-0-9846510-0-9
Hahn’s overstuffed debut novel concerns itself with the descendants of Hungarian émigré Cecil Slaughter, particularly Cecil’s eponymous granddaughters. But the title is misleading: one granddaughter, Celeste, died as an infant and barely figures in the family’s history; another, Ceci, is also long dead, though she narrates from beyond the grave. The living Slaughter cousins—the famous poet, Cecilia; the embittered playwright, Cecily; the proudly promiscuous Celine; and the shy Celie—must contend with the sorrows of their family legacy (Cecilia’s mother is a Holocaust survivor; Celine’s father is a lecher; the cousins’ grandmother, Idyth, suffered a nervous breakdown following her husband’s death) while negotiating the rivalries and disappointments of their relationships. When a brutal encounter leaves Cecilia damaged, past, present, and future collide with predictable results. Hahn, a poet, strives for insight—Ceci is fond of referencing the teachings of Lao Tzu—but the novel, interspersed with poems ostensibly written by Cecilia, mostly achieves an affected tone. Its piling of tragedy upon tragedy is overwhelming, and the preponderance of Slaughter granddaughters makes it difficult to care about any of them. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/30/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
Genre: Fiction
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