Undisciplined if consistently entertaining account of a media sensation. But Sorrentino has burrowed deep into this violent...

TRANCE

A bold, multifaceted reconstruction of the aftermath of the 1974 kidnapping of heiress Patty Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Some army: just nine soldiers, and six of them will die in the fire that accompanies a shootout with the authorities in Los Angeles. Second-novelist Sorrentino (Sound on Sound, 1995) begins his story the day before that, as Tania (Patty’s guerrilla name) fires her carbine to protect her comrades, caught shoplifting. The three then commit five successive carjackings, while elsewhere their Field Marshal requisitions—from The People—the house where his group will die. This long opening section is fine edge-of-the-seat suspense. Then Sorrentino, tinkering with the historical record but keeping the fundamentals intact, tracks Tania and the other two survivors as they settle into different safe houses in the East, return to California, rob two banks in Sacramento and get nabbed in September 1975. They’re aided by a network of sympathizers, chief among them Guy Mock, a big-talking “radical sportswriter” who smells a megabucks book deal. The point of view constantly shifts. We hear from Tania’s parents; the FBI operations chief; Guy’s brother Ernest, who’s a lush and a snitch; a bank robbery victim; and the bewildered, conservative parents of other activists. There are odd digressions: Tania waitressing, undisguised, at a Borsht Belt resort; Guy peddling his book project in New York (clumsy satire). And there’s one more scene as suspenseful as that opening, when Guy is almost killed by the paranoid General Teko. The lasting impression is that the hard-core SLA members are, in the words of their sympathizers, “fucked-up sons of bitches” with no “clear channel to the truth.” Tania is pleasingly complex, bound to the group by the existential novelty of her situation and her newfound love of firearms.

Undisciplined if consistently entertaining account of a media sensation. But Sorrentino has burrowed deep into this violent counterculture without quite achieving the insights of, say, Joan Didion.

Pub Date: July 6, 2005

ISBN: 0-374-27864-4

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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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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