An anti-war novel certainly, but very much its own kind. Pervasively melancholy, folkloric in approach, it’s sustained by...

BUFFALO BOY AND GERONIMO

A beautifully written first novel about the ugliness of war—in Vietnam and anywhere else.

It’s 1970, and circumstances surrounding the life of 14-year-old Mong, Buffalo Boy, are harrowing, a consequence of the lethal attention emanating from Cu Chi, the main base of the 25th Infantry Division. Whether from the air (saturation bombing) or on the ground (napalm attacks), there has been destruction enough to cost Mong his father; in fact, no one in his village has escaped grievous loss. And yet, Mong, astride his buffalo Great Joy, feels empowered, transcending a reality composed of “scarred earth, of green rice fields burned, of trees and huts burned, ravaged.” Moreover, Mong has managed to fall in love—with Thien, also 14, whose breasts and hips fill his imagination with poetry. In the 25th Division, there’s another boy, only slightly older, Antonio Lucio Conchola, who calls himself Geronimo, a talismanic name from which he derives a sense of invulnerability. Geronimo has poetry in him, too, but war and killing have made him unnervingly strange, a condition that alienates him from his comrades. In that half-mad state, he has an almost otherworldly encounter with a tiger, perceiving the great beast as Blake did—burning bright. As a result, he decides that his only sensible course is to resign from the war, permanently. He wanders away from his platoon, eventually to be taken prisoner by Mongo. It’s an odd captivity, noticeably deficient in malice or enmity. It is as if, across the cultural and racial divide, the boys have somehow achieved an iota of affinity.

An anti-war novel certainly, but very much its own kind. Pervasively melancholy, folkloric in approach, it’s sustained by prose that is often lyrical, though never self-conscious.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-931896-19-4

Page Count: 124

Publisher: Curbstone Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2005

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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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