One scene comes needlessly close to Bull Durham (the town beauty becomes a serial dater of transient ballplayers), and...

COOPERSTOWN

The town that baseball built has some mean secrets that throw a wrench into a handful of lives in Us Weekly editor Pilek’s atmospheric and character-filled debut.

Cooperstown is a place so redolent of America that it has taken on the stature of myth. But there are skeletons in its closets, and Pilek pries them out into the light of day to atone for their sins. The ghosts threaten the town’s very foundation: without baseball, the quaint, kempt town would be just another hardscrabble upstate municipality. Without the glory of the baseball’s immaculate conception on its soil, no one would visit. Pilek never gets ponderous with all this, but, instead, she plays it like background music to the residents who live the myth. Forget about the economics; it’s those who identify with the story of the sport’s origins who will pay the price for having stumbled upon closets with ghosts. One will die of a heart attack, another will hang himself, a third will go mute and mad, another turn to booze, a fifth lose everything and go live in the woods. Still, Pilek is not here to play the wasp with a sting. These episodes have already been played out before the story takes root, and Pilek’s tale is in their being put to right, offering a touch of redemption—of the people, not the sport—and taking a peek at why some things endure and others fall by the wayside. Certainly, the good doesn’t always endure. Promising marriages fail, decent lives are quashed, the myth continues to devour even as it sustains. Perhaps it’s time for the myth to move on.

One scene comes needlessly close to Bull Durham (the town beauty becomes a serial dater of transient ballplayers), and another to Shoeless Joe (a dead father appears from on high), but, otherwise, Pilek offers a choice piece of baseballiana.

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-6694-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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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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