THE LIBERTY CAMPAIGN

American Innocence revisited: a retiring adman's spiritual stock-taking acquires dramatic urgency when he learns that his suburban neighbor may be a war criminal. Gene Trowbridge is an advertising executive with a home on Long Island. The 64-year-old Gene is readying himself for retirement and adjustments in his long, loving marriage to wife Ellie when a reporter buttonholes him, asking questions about his reclusive neighbor Albert Ferdinand. His curiosity piqued, Gene befriends Ferdinand; pressed hard, Ferdinand concedes that he's the former Brazilian Army captain who (as the newspaper alleges) oversaw the torture of civilians in the 1960's. But Ferdinand insists that whatever wrong he did in the war against Communism is a private matter ``between me and my God''; his task now is preparing for death and (hopefully) divine acceptance. All this is taxing for Gene, a decent but ``morally undeveloped'' man without a compass in this world of men who torture, and die, for their beliefs. As the authorities and human-rights activists close in, Ferdinand appeals to his friend for help—but Gene finds himself paralyzed, unable to act. Gene works in a business where ``our allegiances are always for sale''; he lives in the reflected glory of a son who is a major-league baseball player; and the story begins on the Fourth of July. While Dee may be pushing Gene's quintessentially American situation too hard, this spellbinding second novel (The Lover of History, 1990) reads like anything but schematic. With a true novelist's flair, the author forestalls our rush to judgment by making the reporter obnoxious and Ferdinand a figure of dignified pathos. Dee's graceful assumption of an older man's voice, his mastery of an elegiac tone, is every bit as impressive as Ishiguro's achievement in The Remains of the Day.

Pub Date: July 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-385-42595-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

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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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