It’s a sweet story, and it builds inevitably to a happy ending.

THE BRIDE STRIPPED BARE BY HER BACHELORS, EVEN

A cute romantic comedy featuring two male buddies who are obsessive-compulsive germophobes and the female Ph.D. student who helps ease at least one of them into a more conventionally normal life.

Imagine one of those road movies starring a younger Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, and then cross it with Rain Man, and you’ll have some idea of the tone of this debut novel by Westbury. His biography identifies him as “a cognitive neuropsychologist...[whose] work focuses on understanding the functional structure of language processing and the neurological underpinnings of psychotherapy.” Fear not: The doctor doesn't let the science get in the way of an engaging story, though it will inspire many readers to rethink their conceptions of mental disorders. Narrator Isaac is a former psych major who's dealing with the death of his mother and the money he's inherited. In group therapy, he develops a special affinity with Greg, who has a master’s degree in art history. Beyond the obligatory hand-washing that bonds them, Isaac’s routine includes visiting museums, and he becomes fixated on Marcel Duchamp, to whom Greg (whose major quirk is a thing for spoons) has introduced him. Though Isaac is inordinately careful not to touch anything or anyone on these museum visits, he becomes involved with the irresistibly attractive Kelly, a Japanese-Canadian Ph.D. student who's writing her thesis on the Bible story of Abraham and Isaac (which serves as a recurring thematic motif). The Duchamp piece from which the novel takes its title incorporates a chocolate grinder, which Isaac obsesses over possessing for himself. The three friends rent a Winnebago, which Kelly alone can drive, and make their way from Boston to Philadelphia to fulfill Isaac’s quest, talking a lot and opening the two men to experiences beyond their comfort levels.

It’s a sweet story, and it builds inevitably to a happy ending.

Pub Date: June 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61902-290-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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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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