A novel of strong women, evocative memories and deep friendship.

THE SUPREMES AT EARL'S ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT

Well, not Florence, Mary and Diana, but rather three close friends from Plainview, Ind., who, from their adolescence to their maturity, meet to gossip and consolidate their friendship at a local eatery.

Odette, Clarice and Barbara Jean have been inseparable since the late 1960s, when they met in high school. Although Barbara Jean was at first an outsider, she quickly bonded with the other two, and they began calling themselves—and being called by others—the Supremes. The novel opens some 40 years after their salad days, when Odette hears of the death of Big Earl, founder of the eponymous black-owned-and-operated restaurant. (We also find out that this news has been conveyed to Odette by her mother, who’s been dead for six years.) Through both Odette’s narrative and a more neutral third-person perspective, we learn of the trio’s personal problems and the rise and fall of their relationships. Odette, for example, is married to the patient and long-suffering James, and recently, she’s discovered she has cancer. Clarice has long been married to Richmond, a charming cad who’s serially and terminally unfaithful—and she needs to decide whether to leave him or not. And Barbara Jean, who married her husband, 42-year-old Lester, the day after she graduated from high school, is now dealing with his death and confronting the alcoholism that struck unforgivingly with the earlier death of her young son. Throughout the Supremes’ intertwined stories is one constant—meeting and eating at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, now run by his son Little Earl, a place where relationships are forged, scandals are aired and copious amounts of chicken are consumed.

A novel of strong women, evocative memories and deep friendship.

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-95992-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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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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