STILL LIFE WITH VOLKSWAGENS

From the British master of social satire: another wild, sprawling romp but one that doesn't pack quite the same punch as, say, Everything and More (p. 420). With his usual varied cast of crazies, Nicholson spins a tale involving everything you've always wanted to know about the Volkswagen Beetle. Barry Osgathorpe, once known as Ishmael, a marauding anti-rich terrorist, has settled down to the quiet life in London. He now refuses to drive his Beetle (aka ``Enlightenment''), since he's come to the conclusion that all of his Zen wondering and searching will only lead him back to where he is already. Unfortunately, though, his old nemesis, a former Tory MP, has been released from an insane asylum, and there are VW bugs mysteriously blowing up all around England. Meanwhile, the nemesis's daughter, still the love of Barry's life, lives with the world's foremost Beetle collector. When the collector disappears, the old flame begs Barry to help her find him. Throw in a bunch of skinheads, a neo-Nazi with a fixation on the FÅhrer's favorite car, as well as roaming New Age campers, a prostituting reporter/dominatrix, several average VW aficionados (who repeatedly stumble into the wrong place at the wrong time), and a precocious car-stealing nine-year-old, and you have the typical Nicholson mayhem. Woven into the story are strange but true anecdotes of Bug lore involving everyone from Hitler and Charles Manson to Ted Bundy and Elvis Presley. Even so, the wild plot this time isn't anchored by the customary rock-solid underpinnings: It's little more than an exuberant joyride with a few wonderful characters and caricatures, but without Nicholson's usual vicious, dead-on satire. Still, an entertaining read by a fiendishly clever writer.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 1995

ISBN: 0-87951-616-X

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1995

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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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