THE LAWS OF RETURN

Seemingly autobiographical debut by Manhattan-based attorney Stracher tells the story of Colin Stone (Hebrew name Chaim, for his late grandfather), raised as a secular Jew by his intellectual parents. Colin, a lawyer, whose WASP-ish first name is something of an albatross to which characters refer several times, is an uneasily divided soul who spends the length of the story struggling to define himself as an American Jew (or Jewish-American). This theme is laced tightly into the more conventional concerns of the bildungsroman, as the book follows its protagonist-narrator from his bris (the ritual circumcision of eight-day-old Jewish males) through to his final assertion of Jewish identity in the face of bigotry in his law firm. Along the way, Colin discovers sex, drugs, and the tenuous ties of friendship. A typically horny teenager of the 1970s, he spends a lot of time wooing and pursuing women, with mixed success. He endures an equally checkered series of best friends, the most sympathetic of them being his gay southern college roommate Dirk. Stracher tells Colin's story in styles that careen wildly from a shopworn magical realism—the infant Colin comments sagely on his mother's copy of Freud; he has two encounters with a mysterious, ``foppish'' angel, the second on a visit to heaven—to a vaguely Philip Roth satirical bent (without the bite or smarts of its model), and then on to an endlessly riffing string of one-liners and wisecracks. A mirthless and out-of-control imitation of Lenny Bruce/Lord Buckley monologues. (First printing of 25,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 1996

ISBN: 0-688-14902-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1996

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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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