A novel of grief, love, and truth that offers insights about a family and a satisfying resolution.

Secrets of Worry Dolls

A daughter comes to terms with family secrets as she deals with the effects of two tragedies from New York’s recent history.

In this novel, Impellizzeri (Lawyer Interrupted, 2016, etc.) follows two parallel narratives, those of Lu Roselli, dealing with the aftermath of a disaster and unraveling family mysteries, and her mother, Mari Guarez Roselli, a Guatemalan immigrant thinking back over her life while trapped in a coma. In 2012, Lu, ambivalent about a planned trip to her mother’s homeland, misses her flight, which crashes into her Queens neighborhood shortly after takeoff, leaving Mari injured and unconscious. Lu deals with her survivor’s guilt—an emotion she has lived with for more than a decade after her father and twin sister died on 9/11—while waiting to see if Mari will recover. Lu makes plans for the baby she did not know that her mother was carrying and sorts through the growing riddles of her family history and her complicated mother-daughter relationship. As Lu’s narrative progresses, the chapters alternate with those told from Mari’s perspective, flashbacks to her experiences in Guatemala and New York that serve to answer the questions Lu raises. Lu eventually travels to Guatemala, where she meets the nun who tells her the story Mari is revealing to the reader and also meets a man who becomes the first friend she has made in years. Impellizzeri draws on Guatemalan traditions to develop the book’s recurring motifs, particularly the practice of sharing worries with tiny dolls and the Mayan calendar projection that the end of the world will occur in December 2012, demonstrating a solid knowledge of the country’s history and culture. Thanks to Mari’s narration, the reader ends up with a more complete picture of the Roselli family than Lu does, an unusual choice but one that makes for an emotionally rewarding conclusion. The prose is serviceable, and the plot, though driven by complex layers of feelings and relationships, is fast-paced and not unnecessarily complicated.

A novel of grief, love, and truth that offers insights about a family and a satisfying resolution.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-942545-65-1

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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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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