DELUGE

An unexceptional if appealing debut in which a part-Chippewa woman recounts the experiences of three generations of her family. Aja shares with grandfather Peke a susceptibility to the Trickster, Wenebojo, who, according to legend, appears during deluges to play pranks and cause trouble. The story begins back near the turn of the century, when Peke, taking the train to college, finds himself in a dispute over a card game. He's thrown off a bridge into pouring rain, and Isabel, the Swedish girl who rescues him, becomes his wife. Years later, their coolly glamorous daughter Nina runs away to St. Paul, where Roy, a handsome Chippewa pilot, catches her eye. Their hopes for a better life are dashed, however, when Roy goes off to the Japanese front and comes home traumatized, refusing to be parted from his parachute; meanwhile, Nina can gain entrance to the big houses she dreams of only by working as a cleaning woman. After Roy is sent to Korea, Nina takes their daughter, Aja, back to the reservation in Minnesota, where she grows up ashamed of her background. She also resents the attention given to her brilliant but difficult brother Jerry, and she fights with her father's sister, Betty, who runs a roadside diner that for Aja represents embarrassing reservation backwardness. Trying to escape, she attends Dartmouth, only to find herself disgusted by her patrician classmates and lured into a stormy marriage with a boy from back home. The birth of a child, the death of her grandmother, and her decision to open a school for Chippewa children eventually enable Aja to come to terms with her heritage, and, taking pleasure in the traditional stories Peke taught her as a child, she shares her culture with the Jewish lawyer who becomes her second husband. While Strong adds few fresh touches to this standard intergenerational saga, her graceful prose and affection for Chippewa lore make for a lively, involving tale.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-517-70621-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1997

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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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