Uneven but often striking work from one of the UK’s best younger writers.



The complications of loving and the pains of estrangement are explored with restrained wit and emotion in this new collection from the prizewinning Scottish author (Everything You Need, 2001, etc.).

The weakest of these dozen stories are generally those that don’t develop beyond core expressions of longing, regret, or resentment. “Not Anything to Do with Love,” for example, though beautifully written, amounts to little more than its unidentified narrator’s reflections on a recently concluded love affair. “Touch Positive,” about a recently discarded husband losing himself in quotidian errands, and “Awaiting an Adverse Reaction,” in which a woman being inoculated before taking a foreign trip considers escape from her nondescript husband, seem equally thin. But the strength of the volume is Kennedy’s command of several intriguingly varied voices, such as those heard in “An Immaculate Man,” which precisely records the emotional whirligig that engulfs a timid divorce attorney unhinged by what he takes to be a homosexual advance made by his married boss. In “Spared,” an unhappy husband finds both sexual gratification and apocalyptic terror in a hastily experienced adulterous dalliance. In the elaborately conceived “White House at Night,” a forensic expert investigating atrocities in an embattled Eastern European country is himself violated by stunned apprehension of his own romantic and sexual vulnerability. A boy too young and frail to defend his mother against his father’s abuse fantasizes becoming her avenger (“A Bad Son”). And a janitor who moonlights as an amateur magician (in “A Little Like Light”) must settle for the appearance rather than the reality of happiness in a sexless “affair” that leads him to realize that “The best love is a little like light. . . . It is beautiful and terrible and blinding and you will never understand the trick of it.”

Uneven but often striking work from one of the UK’s best younger writers.

Pub Date: June 27, 2003

ISBN: 1-4000-4055-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2003

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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