Clothes, bags, shoes, romance, self-acceptance—all we’ve come to expect and done well enough.

SWAPPING LIVES

The British Green, master of the career-girl novel (if your idea of a career girl includes Manolos and a Birkin bag) switches the lives of a pampered American housewife and a London magazine editor, with predictable results.

Thirty-five-year-old Amber Winslow seems to have it all: a McMansion in a Connecticut suburb, a walk-in closet filled with couture, two beautiful children and a doting husband. But of course life in—is it Stepford?—isn’t as rosy as it seems. Her Jamaican nanny is all but raising the children; Amber lives in a state of anxiety that one of the League ladies is besting her; and she has this nagging feeling that her whole life is a useless sham. Across the Atlantic, Vicky Townsley is also yearning for what she doesn’t have—a country home with kids, a big dog and a husband. At 35, she is the features editor at Poise! magazine and enjoys a glamorously hectic social life and a dishy friend (with benefits) who lives around the block. Thanks to a contest sponsored by the magazine, the two women swap lives for a month, bringing with them little more than a toothbrush and underwear. For both, the situation reaffirms that they really do love their life/family, but for Amber, there are some added realizations that the superficiality of her life is interfering with her sense of self. Good for Amber and Vicky and destination epiphany. The real question is whether the journey is enough for the reader—and it mostly is. Green skewers Connecticut suburbia with a gleeful relish, and she hits the right marks with sympathetic Londoner Vicky, a quirky, imperfect heroine who keeps a pair of fat pants at the back of her closet.

Clothes, bags, shoes, romance, self-acceptance—all we’ve come to expect and done well enough.

Pub Date: June 20, 2006

ISBN: 0-670-03480-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2006

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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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