STORIES FROM MESA COUNTRY

A first collection of 14 stories that peoples a southwestern landscape with female survivors of one kind of abuse or another. At her best, Coleman can evoke the haunted landscape and the domestic discord of a Frostian dramatic poem or the passionate bitterness of a Lawrentian short story. ``Sunflower'' concerns a female narrator and her husband Clay, who have found a weary acceptance of each other after her passionate youth and catastrophic tryst with young lover Miguel (``I never felt I could ask him [Clay] where the joy went...''). Likewise, in ``The Voices of Doves,'' the narrator, a bereaved mother who lost her infant—one of many children—when her illiterate helper oiled the baby accidentally with carbolic acid, reaches a reconciliation with the girl after a lonely recognition of a kind of fate that is bound up in the land: ``There is a violence in this soil, in the people who labor on it.'' ``Mesa Country,'' on the other hand, is sparse and Lawrentian: ``We live in tumult. Everyone.'' Other stories are more typically feminist and lyrical in their intent and execution: ``The Paseo'' lovingly evokes in ``a silent marketplace'' a promenade of women ``wrapped around their pearls'' and a male narrator who wants to paint one of the young beauties, but whose downfall involves both the local culture and his own unacknowledged desires. In ``The Ugliest Woman in the World,'' the narrator runs off with wild macho man Buck, only to come to her senses, faced with his selfishness, and leave him. A woman in ``Acts of Mercy'' rides off on a horse to help a neighbor faced with wild dogs—the men here are absent and finally unnecessary. Coleman's stories—some published in such journals as South Dakota Review and Puerto Del Sol—evoke a harsh natural and man- dominated world where women sometimes become strong through their suffering.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 1991

ISBN: 0-8040-0949-X

Page Count: 151

Publisher: Ohio Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1991

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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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