OHIO ANGELS

A quietly lyrical debut about a young woman coming to terms with family and mortality. Hallie Greaves has long since arrived at that point in life where trips home to visit your parents are no longer routine events. A painter living in New York City, Hallie is married (to Morey, an architect) but childless, having suffered a miscarriage some years ago. Still vaguely depressed over the miscarriage and afraid to attempt another pregnancy, Hallie also feels “dried up” artistically and wonders whether she should even try to return to her painting. In the small Ohio town where Hallie grew up, her mother Virginia is equally listless in her own way, and keeps largely to herself, rarely venturing beyond the front door of her home. Hallie decides to come home for a week in July, and once there finds herself swept up in the recollections of her past amid the familiar objects, places, and people of her childhood. Not long after Hallie returns home, her mother takes an overdose of sleeping tablets and has to have her stomach pumped. Shocked by this turn of events, Hallie begins to ask friends about her mother’s moods and health, and is stunned to learn that Virginia had a miscarriage herself while Hallie was still a young child. Hallie stays on until she’s convinced that her mother is out of danger, then returns to New York, filled with a strange sense of liberation from her past and fired with nervous excitement over her own future. Somewhat oppressive in its introspection, but nonetheless a compelling and sensitive portrayal of two different women, each trapped between two periods of her life. Chessman’s style is fluid and unobtrusive, and manages to be meditative without being abstract.

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 1-57962-020-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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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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