A surreal performance that’s worth a read, particularly as a reflection of a historically important time and place.

LAST NIGHT IN GRANADA

Pellizzari’s debut novella tells a young man’s story of idealism, passion, and loss, toggling between 2003 and 2012 as well as between Andalusia and America.

The story opens with a young man named Chris seeing an Illinois doctor to get a prescription for Ambien. He’s a wreck who can’t sleep and has panic attacks. But it wasn’t always this way. Nine years before, when he was a junior at the University of Illinois, he spent his spring semester in Granada, overwhelmed by the romance of it and his passion for the Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca’s works—and for a young woman named Vera, a precocious sophomore in the same program. Now, in 2012, he takes three Ambien pills and tries to sleep, and the remainder of the novella takes place in a liminal space in which he confronts his dreams and his demons, his memories and his present dismal reality. Chris has been fired from his dead-end job and lives alone, fighting his anxieties and trying to make sense of his past and salvage some sort of future. However, what once promised to be everlasting love between the two young people is over; Vera is a now a matron with three kids and a cloddish husband in another Chicago suburb. Pellizzari shares Chris’ first name, he lives in Chicago, and he once attended the University of Illinois, as his character does. Whether the author actually went to Spain for an idyllic semester or fell in love with a woman named Vera isn’t stated in the novel; what is real, or at least fully realized in these pages, is the protagonist’s fervor over García Lorca, and the surreal, poetic way in which Pellizzari tells the story is very effective indeed. Ghosts almost overwhelm this tale—not just that of the Spanish poet, but of all those others who perished in the Spanish Civil War, famously captured by Pablo Picasso’s painting Guernica. To call this novella elegiac is an understatement, and those who love García Lorca—who was assassinated in 1936 at the age of 38—will be moved by the love that Pellizzari shares here. Still, readers would do well to get up to speed on the Spanish Civil War, García Lorca’s life, and the concept of “El Duende” before reading this work. On another level, the story of Chris and Vera is a very old and wry one—a tale of the exotic and romantic versus the mundane and realistic. The passionate love in Granada, as depicted here, seems fated to end as it did in Illinois. Such love hurts, then it passes, and soon we’re middle-aged and wiser, as Chris learns—pining for a ghost that won’t come back again. Fortunately, Pellizzari has the good sense to tamp this emotion down somewhat in his prose, which is poetic but controlled—and all the more successful for its restraint.

A surreal performance that’s worth a read, particularly as a reflection of a historically important time and place.

Pub Date: June 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9990584-8-0

Page Count: 108

Publisher: ReadLips Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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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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