The steady pacing of Walsh’s novel occasionally works against it, but the quiet revelations that emerge lend it a surprising...

TWISTER

A young man’s wartime death increases pre-existing tensions in a Midwestern community even as nightmarish weather approaches.

The town at the heart of Walsh’s first novel is one with plenty of history, and the book allows lots of time for the connections between its inhabitants to reveal themselves. In the first third of the novel, prosaic passages describing a gathering storm are intercut with portraits of the residents—particularly Rose, the grieving mother of Lance, a soldier killed overseas. Slowly, tensions emerge: Rose’s strained relationship with her stepsister Stella, for one, as well as an ongoing dispute over property. Juxtaposed with these is the figure of the Old Man, whose musings on life after having been struck by lightning add to the novel’s themes of festering grievances and unresolved guilt. From there, Walsh reveals the past events that led these characters to this point. The reader gets a better sense of Lance as his fate looms larger, and other characters become more fully developed: the Old Man, before his near-fatal accident, shows a less sympathetic side; Ward, Stella’s husband, reveals a more complex personality. And throughout, there’s a sense of economic foreboding: even without the catastrophic weather implied by the title, ominous things are on the horizon for many of the characters. The pace of the novel’s first part can feel overly deliberate, and Walsh’s lack of specificity in terms of allusions to recent history and political debates is a stylistic device that doesn’t entirely click. But when the novel hits its stride, it moves along very well.

The steady pacing of Walsh’s novel occasionally works against it, but the quiet revelations that emerge lend it a surprising power.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62557-937-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: Black Lawrence Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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