Though the novel is quiet and occasionally dense with historical exposition, it offers a valuable window into Korean history...

THE KINSHIP OF SECRETS

Two sisters, estranged by circumstance, seek to forge a bond and understand their individual and shared histories.

Inja and Miran are near twins. Remarkably close in age, both are artistic and sensitive. But when the novel opens, in 1950, the two girls live on separate continents: When Miran’s parents left South Korea for the United States, they were only able to travel with one child. They chose Miran, who had been in poor health as an infant, and left Inja behind with her maternal grandparents, aunt and uncle. Though the family had planned to return for Inja, North Korean troops invade South Korea and war breaks out. Inja and her relatives are displaced to Busan, enduring hunger, cold, and constant instability; in America, Miran struggles to understand her parents’ anxiety and helplessness as they wait for news. The novel stretches from the early 1950s through the mid-'70s, alternating between Inja’s adolescence in a divided Korea and Miran’s coming-of-age in a differently tumultuous USA. Based loosely on Kim’s (The Calligrapher’s Daughter, 2009) own family history, as detailed in the author’s note, this elegant though frequently sentimental novel relies on the power of family secrets to propel the reader through the sisters’ lives. Inja, contemplating all she does not know of her American family—and vice versa—notes “the strange kind of power one gained from holding secrets.” Will Inja ever know the sister who is practically her twin? Will either sister ever truly understand Korea or America, or will they continue to exist in the space between?

Though the novel is quiet and occasionally dense with historical exposition, it offers a valuable window into Korean history as well as to issues like immigration and assimilation that couldn’t be more relevant today.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-328-98782-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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