A dark romp featuring delightfully crackling dialogue and the mental gymnastics of a protagonist so on edge he tries to...

CITY OF DIS

Will Regan, former copy clerk–turned–35-year-old daydreamer, reflects on his increasingly high-stakes encounters with three seemingly disconnected people in Dublin, a place he’s never left.

As the Dante invocation in the title suggests, the trio circulating in and out of Regan’s days contribute to hellish circumstances. An observer who acted for years as the eyes for his blind mother, Regan sees patterns everywhere. He’s drawn to symmetry by the desire to know if coincidences exist or if fate prevails, a conversation that deepens when he befriends brooding priest Ciaran Crowe. One pattern that Regan mixes up is chronology: he randomly weaves together the absurd consequences set off by seeing Joseph Mary Danaher, a bully from his childhood who is now a burglar responsible for killing an elderly woman. This storytelling foible adds both suspense and levity. It’s often Regan’s acquiescence to others that causes trouble rather than anything he instigates. Danaher invites himself to use Regan’s place as the hideaway for a padlocked bag. Regan saves the second of the trio, Chester Maher, from attempted suicide only to discover that Maher, an amateur composing “an opera without music,” knew his dead mother. She was “the first woman to give [Maher] a number of sleepless nights.” Intrigued by the stranger’s memories, Regan begins rendezvousing with him regularly. The third character anchoring this peculiar milieu is Yelena, a Polish woman he thinks of as his girlfriend despite her insistence that they have no relationship. For her, he signs his name to countless documents he doesn’t understand, perhaps because “the Irishman loves his girlfriend best, his wife the most, but his mother the longest.”

A dark romp featuring delightfully crackling dialogue and the mental gymnastics of a protagonist so on edge he tries to silence a yowling cat with poison.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-84840-364-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: New Island Books/Dufour

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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