Mooney (World Without End, 2001, etc.) offers a sympathetic protagonist in a compelling situation, and for some that will be...

REMEMBERING SARAH

A young girl is stolen in a near-miss psychological thriller, Mooney’s third, triggering guilt, blame, and violence as bitter by-products.

At five, Sarah is as headstrong as she is charming. She is also the battlefield for her parents’ war of attrition, combat that is ongoing, painful, and not really about Sarah despite the pretense. What’s really happening between Mike Sullivan and his wife Jess is a deteriorating marriage. Once, the relationship was uncomplicated and loving; now it’s a prison each wants to escape. Admitting this, however, comes hard, and so the two argue instead—conveniently about the proper way to bring up Sarah. Cautiously, says Jess. Loosen the reins, insists Mike; black-and-blues are lessons that can help prepare a child for a bruising world. On a snowy day in small-town Belham, just outside of Boston, Mike takes Sarah sledding—against Jess’s specific prohibition. Actually, behind her back. In Roby Park, the hill is dramatically steep. Predictably, Sarah wants to navigate it by herself. Even Mike views the idea with alarm, but willful Sarah has her way. She proceeds to the top and in a matter of seconds goes missing. There are lots of potential witnesses, but none prepared to be definitive. Sarah has simply vanished, without explanation. Mike is stricken, Jess enraged. Fast-forward five years, five desolate years, when a suspect has emerged, a disgraced Catholic priest named Francis Jonah, who’s been implicated in the disappearance of two other little girls. While the evidence against him is substantial, it’s not quite courtroom-worthy. Doggedly, the police set about shoring up their case. Devastated by loss, consumed by hate, will Mike be able to wait?

Mooney (World Without End, 2001, etc.) offers a sympathetic protagonist in a compelling situation, and for some that will be enough to get them through the storm of wildly implausible plotting that blows up toward the end.

Pub Date: April 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7434-6378-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2004

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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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