A gripping but uneven story of a young woman obtaining her independence in a new land.

Shanty Gold

An Irish immigrant forges a new life in a turbulent time in Charters’ debut novel.

In 1849, 13-year-old Mary Boland is determined to fulfill the promise she made to her dying mother: leave the disease and despair of life in Ireland, locate her father in America, and give him the golden cross that Mary’s mother gave her. After Mary initially meets kind strangers who help her get to the coast, a devious Englishwoman tricks her onto The Pilgrim’s Dandy, a “coffin ship” aboard which half the passengers are expected to die on the trans-Atlantic trip. Onboard, the sailors brutally use and abuse Mary, her new friend Ceili, and the slave boy Kamua. Despite the atrocities they face on the voyage, Mary and Kam are able to start a new life in Boston, where Kam gets work as a deliveryboy and Mary begins working in an Irish pub (Ceili isn’t so lucky). In time, they become a traveling medicine man and a midwife, respectively. As Mary tries to learn her father’s fate and sort out her feelings for the handsome Daniel Kelly, she begins having run-ins with the dangerous and lecherous Shiv McGraw, a gangster with an iron grip on South Boston. Mary must evade Shiv’s clutches, discover the secrets of her Irish family, and protect the lives of her new Boston family as she tries to establish her new life. Charters interweaves many important topics—immigration, civil rights, women’s rights—into her exciting novel. The narrative paints an evocative portrait of South Boston in the era of Irish immigration, and the supporting characters are particularly well-represented. However, the novel struggles to find a consistent tone as it switches from scenes of rape to childish friendship to slapstick pranks without the scene-setting and worldbuilding that would make such drastic shifts make sense.

A gripping but uneven story of a young woman obtaining her independence in a new land.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62420-176-9

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2015

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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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