An assured and surprisingly gripping tale about the perils of ideological conformity.

SUMMER STORM

Two men have their certainties upended in this story’s parallel plots.

In Warren’s debut novel, Cary University English professor Alan Fernwood feels fairly content with his life. His wife is out of town, his children are grown and out of the house, he teaches an intellectually lively class on Shakespeare’s plays, and he’s steadily working on his latest book of academic literary criticism, Shakespeare’s Journey. Likewise, Cary City Herald newspaper reporter Elvin Alvarez is moderately happy turning out unobjectionable copy reporting on discoveries in science, technology, and medicine. But in short order both men are startled out of their complacency. While seeing his wife off for her long trip to her parents’ home in Taipei, Taiwan, Fernwood buys a book at the airport on the Shakespeare Authorship Question. He’s smugly skeptical at first (“he felt angry and impatient that anyone would waste time on such nonsense”), but the more he reads about the subject, the more he begins to doubt his former certainties about whether or not the Man from Stratford actually wrote the plays attributed to William Shakespeare. Even while he continues to teach his class with undiminished skill (the long stretches narrating these class sessions are genuinely absorbing as general-interest probes into the plays), his certainty about the standard Shakespeare story starts to rapidly erode. Meanwhile, in an effort to make his columns more controversial, Alvarez digs into the “settled science” regarding humanity-propelled global warming. He begins his investigations sure about the oft-cited scientific consensus on the subject, but “the more he learned, the harder it was to see how human-produced carbon dioxide could have much effect on the planet’s climate.” Warren peppers these ideological themes with some human conflict in his cerebral and meaty tale (Alvarez is in love with Fernwood’s daughter, and Fernwood himself is moonstruck by one of his young students). But the book’s main interest (only slightly weakened by its split focus) is its energetic dissection of the science of global warming and particularly the details of the Shakespearean authorship debate. (At one point, Fernwood discovers that Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. never thought Shakespeare wrote the works “because no evidence exists that he had ever visited Italy, where a dozen of the plays are set.”) Even readers familiar with the controversy will learn something in this intellectually fast-paced telling.

An assured and surprisingly gripping tale about the perils of ideological conformity.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5334-1421-2

Page Count: 396

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2017

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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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