Elegantly readable and sardonically perceptive: literary fiction that doesn’t put on airs.

TROPHY HOUSE

A tart social novel from veteran Bernays (Professor Romeo, 1989, etc.).

On the Wednesday after Labor Day of 2002, children’s-book illustrator Dannie Faber is gossiping with best friend Raymie, who runs a B&B in Provincetown, about the rude rich people overrunning Cape Cod. The one who jumped the line at a popular local restaurant by bribing the waiter turns out to be the same hotel gazillionaire who’s built a huge, vulgar trophy house down the beach from Dannie in Truro. It’s the one-year anniversary of September 11, an event that quietly haunts Dannie; she’s also slightly concerned about the slow asphyxiation of her marriage to MIT professor Tom Faber and about the arrival of daughter Beth, dumped by a live-in boyfriend. Dannie tries to be supportive, but she never thought much of egotistical Andy, and she wishes 29-year-old Beth would grow up and quit being so needy. Though we view the action through Dannie’s eyes, readers come to realize that this workaholic, emotionally skittish and often judgmental woman does not always accurately convey what’s going on. Bernays depicts with extra-dry humor the Faber marriage, which has long since exhausted its reasons for being, and Raymie’s surprise hookup with the crass trophy-house owner, Mitchell Brenner, who proves to be not (quite) as awful as he first seemed. Sharp-tongued Dannie might grow annoying as a narrator if she weren’t so smart and frequently so funny about social and sexual tensions on the Cape, in academia and in a middle-aged affair. New York publisher David is sexy, adoring and practically perfect—but Dannie manages to find a few things wrong with him anyway. By the end of the story, she’s pushed him into the same kind of part-time relationship she had with her now-ex-husband. It becomes clear that Dannie loves Truro and her solitary creative life at least as much as she does her family and friends.

Elegantly readable and sardonically perceptive: literary fiction that doesn’t put on airs.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-7055-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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