A thoroughly readable story about acceptance, forgiveness, and redemption.

The Father-Daughter Club

In Ragsdale’s (Tuesday’s Socks, 2014) second novel, a tightknit father and daughter face life-changing challenges that threaten the stability of their relationship.

David and Elizabeth Fredericks settle into their swanky hotel in Athens, Greece, as they begin a month’s vacation in Europe to revel in David’s new status as a retiree. They also have an unspoken hope that the trip will help strengthen their marriage, which was once nearly destroyed by David’s affair with a co-worker. Kate, their only child, is 30 years old and has always had a much tighter bond with her father, which has sometimes left Elizabeth feeling distant and isolated. On the second day of their vacation, Kate flies in from Edinburgh, Scotland, unannounced, to shakily announce that she’s happily in love with a woman. In an unexpected plot turn, Elizabeth reacts calmly, seeing a bright silver lining in the news: the potential for forging new bonds with her daughter. Her father, however, alternates between quiet seething and downright cruelty. Later, when Elizabeth takes day trips to spend more time with Kate and her partner, Charlotte, David clumsily struggles with anger, embarrassment, jealousy, and guilt. No longer is his affair coming between him and his wife; now their daughter is. When tragedy strikes, a change in the family dynamic causes even more complications. In one of many emotionally rich scenes, David drives to Edinburgh alone and locates Charlotte’s bakery, intent on confronting her and “telling her to leave his precious daughter the hell alone.” The author beautifully depicts his embarrassment and ineptitude as he bumbles through his purchase of two scones, as well as Charlotte’s dawning realization of his identity. The novel’s flowing dialogue prompts quick page turning, as it’s at once complex and believable. The descriptions of various geographic locales are as sumptuous and lyrical as a travelogue: “Fragrant lemongrass and lush ferns draped themselves over the stairs’ time-softened edges. Lush vines crept up trellises and wove themselves over arbors as hundreds of gold lights twinkled from amidst the green leaves, warming the walkways beneath.” Along the way, Ragsdale masterfully explores the characters’ emotions and the motivations behind their shifting alliances.

A thoroughly readable story about acceptance, forgiveness, and redemption.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0990747833

Page Count: 334

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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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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