Adept at describing the internal forces that pull people downward, less so at creating characters whose personalities are...


Indiana’s sixth outing (after Depraved Indifference, 2001) explores the damaged psyches of a group of artists, all on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

The web of characters here—actors, playwrights, authors, painters, as well as their loved ones—have all met with some degree of success. That is to say, also, that they have met with some degree of failure, increasingly so as the years go on. Depression, anxiety, restlessness, and lingering resentment have brought most of them to a state of paralysis, where their creative efforts and romantic liaisons have begun to putrefy. These are ills that can be cured neither by therapy nor heroin, sex nor travel. At the center of the coterie is Indiana himself, recounting everyone else’s stories as an admittedly unreliable narrator, staying put in New York as the others disappear around the world, only to return. He includes his own story only insofar as it may be an integral part of another’s tale—a device that leaves something of a vacuum in an already fractured narrative, enigma and begging for a hint of transparency that might illuminate the fatal self-destruction he hints at. Indiana’s jump-cut writing style—clipped, clever, filled with knowing cultural references—makes for a quick and snappy read. But it leaves the characters with a certain shallowness that makes it difficult for the reader to connect or care as they struggle with their inner demons.

Adept at describing the internal forces that pull people downward, less so at creating characters whose personalities are more complex than their neuroses.

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-31205-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


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.


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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