A storyteller mastering his craft.

THE LONE SURFER OF MONTANA, KANSAS

STORIES

Eight tales of youthful heartache and road-trip escapades from the Michigan rapper, filmmaker and creator of Found (www.foundmagazine.com).

The young male narrators in this spare, somber debut collection are restless, unsettled and often from sticky home situations. The teenager who narrates “Maggie Fever” is sent to live with his grandfather in Albuquerque, “a weird and scary dude” who makes his living collecting rented carts from the airport and who cherishes his sick cat, Gilbert. When Gilbert requires an expensive operation, Grandpa suggests a scheme of stealing people’s luggage and the boy finds some friendly solace reading the diary of the owner (Maggie) of the backpack he swipes. The title story concerns a couple of road-trippers speeding across Kansas. They come upon a boy named Kyle, who has taught himself to surf, implausibly, in the cornfields. Provoking a shootout with the town cop on their way to take Kyle to the hospital to set his broken arm, the narrator and his on-again-off-again girlfriend learn the sad, hopeless story of Kyle’s sick sister, and the narrator seizes the “bleak revelation—Kyle would never get to the ocean.” Indeed, these characters are stuck for good where they are, like the members of the road gang, prisoners of Galloway Lake Detention Center, who make the lone, weak black man, Maurice, the butt of their vicious jokes. When Maurice’s own sorrow finally surfaces, the men explode in their anger and desperation and beat him horribly: “ . . . the madness of it brought great wild smiles to our faces.” The young narrator of “Elena,” looking for work, seeks “a good situation” across the border in Juarez helping coyotes enlist truck drivers to carry stowaways. The work turns ugly (how can he imagine otherwise?), and even the one redemptive note, his love for the teenage prostitute Elena, can’t alter the persistent corrosion of poverty and ignorance. Other stories are occasionally sophomoric in their handling, but, overall, Rothbart writes with control, precision and compassion.

A storyteller mastering his craft.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-6305-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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