By no means a failure, but this potentially fascinating second novel (after A Blue Moon in Poorwater, 1988) doesn’t add up...


The fate of the planet and the burdens shouldered by people paranormally attuned to its rhythms are the themes explored in this lyrical, uneven fiction.

The primary of two subtly connected stories focuses on Moira Robbins, a young Virginia wife and mother who’s uprooted when her husband Paul, a scientist working in the alternative energy field, gets a high-profile job with an ambitious California company. Moira’s longing for her home country’s sights and sounds manifests itself in increasingly dreamlike states during which she “sees” into other people’s lives. Meanwhile, back near the Robbins’s former home, engineer and spelunker Randy Seigle explores locally storied “Murder Hole,” which, he believes, must be connected to a cave whose entrance has never been found. Hankla crosscuts efficiently between the two stories, suggesting further unexplored dimensions in Randy’s primal wish “to be like the earth itself,” and painstakingly connecting Moira’s disturbing visions with her five-year-old son Ian’s fixation on Native American folklore, and with the somewhat vatic “Legend of the Turtle People” related in a book she possesses. As Moira’s psychic abilities turn her outward from self-concern and involve her in the search for two women campers missing in the Mojave Desert, Randy learns from a taciturn elderly farmer where to seek for what is ostensibly hidden in the unfound cavern—and the unfolding wisdom of the Turtle People, contained in prophecies of death and regeneration, turns Moira and Paul toward the path they must follow. There’s lovely stuff here (e.g., an especially beautiful description of lovemaking during pregnancy), but The Land Between (perhaps unduly influenced by Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams) simply has too many burners flaming and pots boiling.

By no means a failure, but this potentially fascinating second novel (after A Blue Moon in Poorwater, 1988) doesn’t add up to the sum of its arresting parts.

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-880909-64-2

Page Count: 260

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2003

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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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