From the closely chaperoned lives of schoolgirls in 1950s New Orleans, where Isabela was a student, to the explosive...

THE LADIES OF MANAGUA

An up-and-coming painter faces the collapse of her romantic life while repairing her neglected relationship with her mother.

“Revolutionaries make bad husbands.” So says Isabela, mother of Ninexin (a former Sandinista–turned-politician shaping the new Nicaragua) and grandmother of Mariana (an aspiring artist). She should know. Although her own husband, Ignacio, contented himself with running a law practice and hiding his mistresses, her son-in-law, Manuel, lost his life to the revolution. But this is a story about the revolutionary lives women make for themselves out of necessity, out of commitment, out of passion. After Manuel's death (in a shootout shrouded in mystery), living in Nicaragua becomes increasingly dangerous for Ninexin, so she sends their 7-year-old daughter, Mariana, to live in Miami with her parents. The cost: Mariana and Ninexin become estranged—Ninexin convinced that Mariana will judge her, Mariana convinced that Ninexin always loved Nicaragua more than her own daughter. But when Ignacio dies and his body is flown to Nicaragua to be buried, Mariana returns to Managua not only for the funeral, but also for a little time away from her boyfriend, Allen. Divorced, a successful painter, and quite a bit older than Mariana, Allen follows her to Managua, hoping to repair their fragile relationship. This novel fairly begs to be filmed. Chapter by chapter, Gage (Other Waters, 2012, etc.) shifts from Isabela’s to Ninexin’s to Mariana’s perspective, often retelling the same scene through another character’s eyes. These shifts reveal the emotional ties binding the women together as well as the secrets that have forced them to make painful choices.

From the closely chaperoned lives of schoolgirls in 1950s New Orleans, where Isabela was a student, to the explosive insurrection of 1970s and '80s Nicaragua to the sniping artistic world of 2010s New York, Gage carefully and thoughtfully explores the social demands placed on women and the repercussions of submitting to or defying them.

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05864-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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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