Mildly amusing, but a work from the co-author of Billy Crystal’s current Broadway hit, 700 Sundays, could have packed more...

THE OTHER SHULMAN

This comic novel about a lovable loser who runs in a New York City Marathon is an adult first from Zweibel, Emmy-winning TV writer and author of Bunny Bunny (1994), a memoir of Gilda Radner.

Shulman is the middle-aged owner of a failing stationery store in Fort Lee, N.J. He’s overweight (248 pounds), has been likened to “Woody Allen with a glandular condition” and hates running. So when he announces his marathon entry, his older, successful brothers are contemptuous, his wife Paula plain baffled. But Shulman needs to escape the realities of bankruptcy and of a nonexistent sex life, and his sponsorship money will go to an AIDS project. The goodhearted Shulman, who has hastened his bankruptcy with freebies and markdowns, is in fact a self-made victim incapable of anger. But there’s the Other Shulman, the name he gives to his spitting image, first encountered on a running path when his super-aggressive double charged toward him, forcing him into the bushes. The Other Shulman, natch, owns a chain of stationery megastores, and he’ll continue to best Shulman at every turn. Does he really exist, or is he Shulman’s liberated id on a rampage? It doesn’t really matter, for this loose-jointed tale, alternating between the marathon and earlier comic diversions, pursues its comedy as erratically as Shulman pursues his training, from Shulman’s gig behind the scenes on a TV game show to his very public kiss with a fellow runner, another prelude to nothing. Zweibel injects a more serious note with the HIV-positive Coach Jeffrey, who before his sudden death dictates a letter to Shulman containing the usual self-help stuff (commit to your dream, etc.), preparing for the fairy-tale ending.

Mildly amusing, but a work from the co-author of Billy Crystal’s current Broadway hit, 700 Sundays, could have packed more of a punch.

Pub Date: July 12, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-6266-7

Page Count: 305

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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

BAREFOOT

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.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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