A triumphant and eloquent collection that never shies away from the emotional and intellectual entanglements of love and...

SIRENS' SONGS

A compact yet thematically and stylistically wide-ranging verse collection that contains lyrical and nuanced explorations of love, power, impermanence and aging.

The sea washes through this collection, not as a fixed symbol, but rather as something as capricious and mutable as life itself. Its currents may represent irresistible forces of attraction (“Siren’s Song”); its depths, the generative source of life (“The Mermaid’s Tale”); its tides, the vicissitudes of aging (“I’d Hate to See My Love Grow Old”); and its unyielding forces, a threat to reclaim what it has birthed (“The Sea Dance,” “First Marriage”). Out of fear, love or simply wonder these narrators hold fast to the sight of the sea, by turns flailing to escape its currents or submersing themselves in its solemn, primordial metaphors. Not surprisingly for a volume drenched in superlatively feminine associations, these poems have much to say about gender issues and the burdens and triumphs of femininity. There are unabashed celebrations of sexuality, such as in “Doughnut Man,” which conflates several sensory pleasures, and even frightening glimpses of a woman who kills dispassionately the man she loves in “The Crime.” But there are also threats to the female body and psyche as in “First Marriage” where the narrator flatly acknowledges that “He fucks to kill,” or in “Mustache Man” in which the narrator “couldn’t stop laughing / until one man walked right through me, / followed by another, and another. / Then, as the tide rose and the sun sank, / they trampled me into the dark, wet sand.” In exploring the crimes perpetuated on the female body and heart, Stevens (Ragbag, 2010) occasionally resembles Sharon Olds, though without the sustained brutality and conceptual density. While the poems suggest a world of both empowered and victimized women, where the men are as likely to be the sirens as not (“The Steel Pier”), her accompanying illustrations, simple line sketches, tend to portray women in almost comically erotic terms, but always with a hint of elemental wildness to them, suggesting that they can never be victimized for long.

A triumphant and eloquent collection that never shies away from the emotional and intellectual entanglements of love and lust, connection and manipulation, the momentary and the eternal.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-1935916031

Page Count: 88

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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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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