This is a tortured novel and yet a redemptive one. It isn’t a happily-ever-after story, but Marro casts a ray of hope that a...

CASUALTIES

Marro’s debut novel is a gritty tragedy that unrelentingly addresses painful issues of war, suicide, and the shady dealings of defense contractors.

Ruth Nolan, a powerful executive for a military contractor, finds herself entangled in RyCom’s legal debacle at the same time her son, Robbie, returns home from a stint in Iraq, mentally still at war. In turmoil of her own, Ruth makes a decision that she will regret forever. Robbie commits suicide, and she blames herself. When she abruptly flees, trying to outrun memories, regrets, and the people who remind her of them, she creates her own combat zone. Casey MacInerney, a vagrant and gambler also grieving his past, takes advantage of Ruth and forces her to take him with her on her cross-country journey. Ruth’s and Casey’s survival depends on trusting each other. Traveling together forces each to examine past actions and seek ways to forge a future worth living. Marro’s perception of the hurt and guilt her characters carry is deftly portrayed, although she provides readers no relief as they wrestle with their demons—not a minute to take a breath, nothing to chuckle about, nothing peaceful with which to buffer the storm of, well, casualties. But through her characters’ soul-searching and self-discovery, Marro provides a clear sense that, while the past can’t be undone, the future always offers a chance to make amends, and the human spirit can triumph over pain and find hope in family and forgiveness.

This is a tortured novel and yet a redemptive one. It isn’t a happily-ever-after story, but Marro casts a ray of hope that a good life can be lived after terrible tragedy.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-425-28346-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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