LAND O'GOSHEN

A young orphan battles the forces of the ruling Christian right wing in this slightly futuristic, often clumsy Southern fantasy by first-time novelist McNair. The time is the near future, the place Goshen, Ala., and the forces of conservative, evangelistic Christianity have taken over the United States government after a violent second civil war. The nation is now headed by The Father, a charismatic dictator whose burning eyes stare from every television channel, whose New Constitution forbids citizens to take his name in vain, and whose military forces, the Christian Soldiers, ransack the countryside in search of cigarette smokers, homosexuals, single mothers, and other enemies of the state. Fourteen-year-old Buddy, whose parents were killed in a factory explosion and whose revered older brother, Randy, was shot through the heart during a rebel uprising, has fled an orphanage to live alone in the deep woods outside Goshen. Longing for his dead brother, swearing vengeance on the Christian Soldiers for his death, Buddy expresses his anger by donning a terrifying monster costume at every full moon and frightening random groups of Christian citizens half to death. On one of these forays, Buddy encounters pretty, 15-year-old Cissy, whose own mother has just died, whose Christian, war-hero father is long gone, and who is perfectly happy to follow Buddy to the forest and share his idyllic, pagan life. Amiable kids at heart, Buddy and Cissy find it easy to bury the hatchet as far as their families' political differences are concerned; they frolic happily in their private paradise, trading life stories and making love among the fox fire and the ``See-Me-Know-Me'' trees—until the Christian Soldiers arrive to wreak revenge. An ingenuous blend of Huckleberry Finn and 1984 that entertains but rarely convinces.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-312-11296-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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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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