A heartfelt story of a broken family beginning to heal.

The Book of Sonny

A badly fractured family suddenly faces a crisis in Laurie’s debut novel.

Sonny DeMario, a 40-something FedEx driver in Cedar City, Utah, and his wife, Sue, an office manager for a construction company, live in the same house but don’t love each other anymore. Years ago, Sonny’s relationships with his two grown children, Vincent and Veronica, nearly broke down completely. He expressed moral outrage over the revelation that Vincent was gay and went to live with his childhood friend in San Francisco, and about the fact that Veronica had a child out of wedlock with her abusive boyfriend, Ron Meskin. The current highlights of Sonny’s life are his job, his conversations with his friends, and the companionship of his 7-year-old German shepherd, Cody. When an acquaintance at the local dog park suggests they breed their dogs and sell the pups, Sonny agrees. Meanwhile, Sue pursues a lucrative offer to model for a handsome photographer. These parallel moneymaking ventures are interrupted when Ron, irate over Veronica’s overnight absence, takes their 3-year-old son, Darrin, and disappears. A distraught Sonny and Sue take the initiative in trying to find their grandson, putting up fliers, canvasing online social media sites, talking with friends of Ron in search of clues. Overall, Laurie’s novel is fast-paced, smoothly accomplished, and involving. He expertly intertwines the two main narrative strands, and along the way, he even includes an intriguing mystery involving an enigmatic old man who begins appearing to Sonny in visions, just as all the events in his life seem to go haywire at the same time. The dialogue throughout the story is believable and straightforward, and the plot’s undercurrents of uplift never feel cheap or manipulative, nor does the gradual deepening of Sonny’s empathy for his children.

A heartfelt story of a broken family beginning to heal.

Pub Date: June 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9976026-4-7

Page Count: 248

Publisher: I AM Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2016

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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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