Readers who traveled the continent with Lewis and Clark in Brian Hall’s masterly I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company...



A daft Vermonter and his loyal nephew precede Lewis and Clark—in an erudite and absorbing tweak of the Great Exploration.

Skirting the dangerous whirlpools of whimsy and preciousness, novelist (The Fall of the Year, 1999) and memoirist (North Country, 1997) Mosher, himself a Vermonter, spins a light-as-air western concoction. Narrator Ticonderoga (Ti) Kinneson, only son of a small-town newspaper editor, has grown up under the tutelage of his father’s energetically eccentric brother Private True Teague Kinneson. Uncle True—whose claim to have accompanied Ethan Allen at his victory would have made him a soldier at age seven—drives his younger brother to distraction, but he is his nephew’s hero and friend. True blames his dottiness on a fall taken at the celebration of the Vermont victory at Ticonderoga, a whack to the skull requiring the constant protection of a copper basin, itself protected by a knit, belled cap. Oh, and he wears a codpiece. It would be a lazy student, then, who did not catch the references to Cervantes as Uncle True escapes New England to compete in a race to the Pacific against President Jefferson’s official party, references to whom Mosher makes happily and unpretentiously (L. Frank Baum pops up too). The utterly loyal Ti, mounted on a fine stallion, a gift, like True’s white mule, from President Jefferson, dutifully follows the possibly mad man to Monticello and the world beyond, a world that includes Daniel Boone’s nymphomaniacal daughter, an endless succession of interesting Indian tribes, big skies, and near-daily encounters with death and disaster, with escapes almost always due to True’s boundless ingenuity, which was unaffected by the disastrous blow to the head all those years ago. In the midst of the madness and maelstroms, Ti learns to paint well enough to invent a genre that incorporates Indian artistic conventions. The Kinnesons are in constant contact with but always ahead of Lewis and Clark, and they do, indeed, make it to the Pacific.

Readers who traveled the continent with Lewis and Clark in Brian Hall’s masterly I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company will see the same landmarks and run into the same people, but they’ll have a much, much easier trip—and more fun.

Pub Date: June 5, 2003

ISBN: 0-618-19721-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

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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