TALES OUT OF SCHOOL

A luminous debut novel set in turn-of-the-century Galveston, Texas, the first fiction from this small literary press. Taylor, author of a collection of essays (Into the Open: Studies in Genius and Modernity, not reviewed), writes in a richly poetic language steeped in time and place, a powerful style that well supports the tale of the Mehmel family, ``a people for whom life had become too hard.'' The Mehmels, like many other Eastern European Jewish families, immigrated to the port city of Galveston at the end of the 19th century. Having established a successful European-style brewery there, the elder Mehmel believes his family to be firmly rooted in the adopted country. But then his eldest son is swept away in a flood, his other son, a fey aesthete, seems interested only in bird-watching, and the legacy is left to teenage Felix, the son of the drowned heir. Felix, too, however, is a dreamer of uncertain sexual orientation, forever studying Latin texts with a middle-aged intellectual woman who openly lives with another woman. While trying to keep their foothold in the new land, the Mehmels are also struggling with their old faith. The local rabbi, another Eastern European ÇmigrÇ, pleads with the Mehmel widow to keep the old ways while he himself wrestles with religious doubts that have plagued him since he was a rabbinical student. These doubts were sown by a nomadic stranger who gave him questioning texts, and this same Elijah-like figure may or may not be the drifter who appears in Galveston at a time when all faith lapses. Taylor's magical, expressive language pulls the dense themes rapidly along, and even though he does sometimes poeticize to the point of confusing the action, his writing in general is engaging enough to make for tolerance in the reader. A beautifully rendered, moving, original debut. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1995

ISBN: 1-885983-04-2

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Turtle Point

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1995

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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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