Castellani writes movingly, affectingly of immigrant life, of the dichotomy of cultures, of the persistence of love across...


“You have to tend to family like you tend to a garden,” writes Castellani (The Saint of Lost Things, 2005, etc.) in his third literary effort.

Matriarch Maddalena, “reporting and worrying and complaining and negotiating,” needs more care than any other flower in the Grasso family garden. Maddalena is 70-something, still beautiful, still grieving over the death of her first-born son, Tony, and very much the axis of life for husband Antonio, daughter Prima and son Francesco. Antonio is semiretired from his successful restaurant. Prima is well-married to prosperous Tom Buckley and mother of four strapping sons. Much to Maddalena’s distress, Frankie, born after Tony’s death, is a grad student in faraway Boston, “building additions to the sprawling mansion of his dissertation with the zeal of Bob Vila.” There is a certain equilibrium, even though Tony's death was a suicide that left behind guilty secrets in the hearts of Antonio and Prima. Then, Prima uses the celebration of her youngest son’s religious confirmation to announce she has bought tickets for the entire family for a sojourn to her parents’ ancestral village, Santa Cecilia in Italy. Maddalena angrily dismisses the gift. Refusing to voice her objection, she fears returning to see the beauty of her youth ripped away by reality and to again meet Vito, her first love. Layered over this family conflict are other, more serious catastrophes. Prima and her youngest are seriously injured in an auto accident, an incident that turns her from nurturing and devoted to bitter and angry. Then, Maddalena begins a rapid descent into “old timer’s.” 

Castellani writes movingly, affectingly of immigrant life, of the dichotomy of cultures, of the persistence of love across generations.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61620-170-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


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.


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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