Somber but undeniably affecting and profound tales.


In Felicelli’s (Sparks Off You, 2012, etc.) short story collection, Tamil-Americans struggle to find themselves in a world that persistently marginalizes them.

In the title tale, an unnamed San Franciscan narrator returns to Chennai, his birthplace, to research the legend of the lost continent of Kumari Kandam. It’s a decision that impresses neither his father in the States nor his girlfriend Komakal’s parents in Tamil Nadu. Like the narrator, other characters in these poignant stories deal with questions of identity. Young Hagar of “Everywhere, Signs,” is attending a Pittsburgh school, where, soon after the 9/11 attacks, her fellow students brand her a terrorist—simply because she’s a person of color. In “Elephants in the Pink City,” Kai Sarma’s traditional parents won’t let him date whom he wishes after he comes out as gay; and Susannah, an Indian, is shunned by white and Tamil Brahmin classmates in “The Logic of Someday.” Felicelli typically steeps her tales in metaphors, resulting in audacious approaches to such issues as racism and sexism. For example, in the opening story, “Deception,” Sita is in an arranged marriage to a Bengal tiger. When the big cat dies from poisoning, Sita becomes a murder suspect; local villagers ignore the fact that her husband, a literal beast, had been abusing her. Many other stories take dark turns, including deaths of loved ones and fractured relationships. The brightness of Felicelli’s prose, however, provides a beautiful contrast: “She kept her good eye closed against the fluorescent hospital lights,” she writes in “Snow,” “trying to forget the humiliating sound of the cocktail glass smashing, the shower of glass splinters.” Although each of the 13 stories here can stand on its own, characters do recur in multiple tales. Kai and his sister, Hema, for instance, both appear in “Elephants in the Pink City” and the later “Hema and Kathy,” and Susannah crops up in “Snow” and “The Art of Losing,” which centers on her former boyfriend’s mother, Maisie.

Somber but undeniably affecting and profound tales.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-945233-04-3

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Stillhouse Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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