A lightweight but feel-good parable for fans of angel-encounter stories.

THERE IS ONLY ONE

A short tale about a man whose life is changed by a mysterious encounter at the foot of a mountain.

Joseph, the narrator of this short novella by Johnston and Ben, is sitting atop a mountain when he’s struck by a series of sudden realizations: life is short; the meaning of existence, murky; the universe can often seem unfair (“What was fair about someone living ninety years and having a great life, while someone else died early from childhood cancer?”); and he’s been ignoring all of these concerns too long. He feels a new clarity as he hikes back down the mountain, but alarming physical symptoms quickly overtake him. He’s feeling terrible when he reaches the bottom and encounters a stranger who calmly informs him he’s having a heart attack but also reassures him: “Everything happens for a reason and everything will work out.” His friends and girlfriend rally around him, and although he’s initially depressed, he survives. When he’s recovered enough to return to the mountain, Joseph seeks out the mysterious stranger in hopes of gaining insights he’s sure the man possesses. And he’s not wrong. He meets the same man, and for the remainder of the novella, the stranger teaches him about meditation, reincarnation (“Creation is precise….If you shoot and kill someone, you will be shot and killed”), and the true nature of Christianity. Their eventual parting is calm but final, and Joseph is left to ponder everything he’s learned and come to some fundamental breakthroughs of his own (he realizes that “knowing God and deepening your relationship with Him is all that matters”). The combination of Christianity and Eastern mysticism that Johnston and Ben present here is intriguing though somewhat underdeveloped; Joseph never experiences any serious doubts about the stranger, and the stranger never hints as to why Joseph would be singled out for such an extraordinary visitation. Both Joseph and his mysterious instructor have a tendency to talk in clichés, and despite his assurances to the contrary, Joseph isn’t radically changed by his supernatural experiences. The story’s pace, however, is quick enough to keep many readers’ interest.

A lightweight but feel-good parable for fans of angel-encounter stories.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1491755235

Page Count: 58

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2015

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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Hilderbrand’s portrait of the upper-crust Tate clan through the years is so deliciously addictive that it will be the “It”...

THE ISLAND

Queen of the summer novel—how could she not be, with all her stories set on an island—Hilderbrand delivers a beguiling ninth (The Castaways, 2009, etc.), featuring romance and mystery on isolated Tuckernuck Island.

The Tate family has had a house on Tuckernuck (just off the coast of swanky Nantucket) for generations. It has been empty for years, but now Birdie wants to spend a quiet mother-daughter week there with Chess before Chess’s wedding to Michael Morgan. Then the unthinkable happens—perfect Chess (beautiful, rich, well-bred food editor of Glamorous Home) dumps the equally perfect Michael. She quits her job, leaves her New York apartment for Birdie’s home in New Canaan, and all without explanation. Then the unraveling continues: Michael dies in a rock-climbing accident, leaving Chess not quite a widow, but devastated, guilty, unreachable in the shell of herself. Birdie invites her younger daughter Tate (a pretty, naïve computer genius) and her own bohemian sister India, whose husband, world-renowned sculptor Bill Bishop, killed himself years ago, to Tuckernuck for the month of July, in the hopes that the three of them can break through to Chess. Hunky Barrett Lee is their caretaker, coming from Nantucket twice a day to bring groceries and take away laundry (idyllic Tuckernuck is remote—no phone, no hot water, no ferry) as he’s also inspiring renewed lust in Tate, who has had a crush on him since she was a kid. The author jumps between the four women—Tate and her blossoming relationship with Barrett, India and her relationship with Lula Simpson, a painter at the Academy where India is a curator, Birdie, who is surprised by the recent kindnesses of ex-husband Grant, and finally Chess, who in her journal is uncoiling the sordid, sad circumstances of her break with normal life and Michael’s death.

Hilderbrand’s portrait of the upper-crust Tate clan through the years is so deliciously addictive that it will be the “It” beach book of the summer.

Pub Date: July 6, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-316-04387-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2010

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