Lots of nicely rendered, physically specific details about farming, fishing, and hunting in the first third of the 20th...

MOON TIDE

Lyrical first novel, enraptured by nature and language, traces the fortunes of three unusual women and the men who love them from the summer of 1913 to the hurricane of 1938.

Elizabeth Gonne Low, 65 when the story begins, is a wealthy outsider in the coastal town of Westport, Massachusetts, though she lives there year-round. So does Maggie, a 16-year-old immigrant from Latin America who tends to Elizabeth, beds down with a local merchant, and seems to know everything about animals and plants. Elizabeth’s granddaughter Eve comes for the summers, beginning in 1917 when the seven-year-old arrives with her father, grief-stricken after his wife’s mysterious death. Eve found her mother’s body, and she’s retreated into a hazy disconnect that entices Jake Wilkes, a local boy who “grows displaced from his own life” through reading the books in Elizabeth’s library. Jake’s older brother, Wes, solidly rooted in the town’s old ways, becomes a rum-runner and engages in a fierce, disastrous affair with Maggie. Eve feels Jake’s attraction (“somehow he had unwrapped her, and now she could not find her way back to being closed”), but she settles for Patrick Gerow, an architect designing fancy new houses for the summer people. Elizabeth’s thoughts turn increasingly toward death, Maggie nurses the shattered Wes, and Eve yearns for Jake as the narrative meanders toward the famous hurricane that devastated New England on September 21, 1938. The storm blows some energy into Tripp’s languid narrative, though even in this apocalyptic climax the prose tends to be overwrought, as are the plot developments. Tripp writes lovely sentences, but she’s so enamored by the sound of her authorial voice that the characters remain artful constructs without convincing lives of their own.

Lots of nicely rendered, physically specific details about farming, fishing, and hunting in the first third of the 20th century, but too many of the central insights are as solemn and obvious as the moon imagery that gives the book its title.

Pub Date: July 15, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-50844-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2003

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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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