Addonizio fondly indulges her insightful babies, bad mothers and troubled young women, but fails to convince readers that...


Can two problem-laden women salvage their futures?

Maternal damage looms large in this first novel, a lightweight comedy set in Long Beach, Calif., by poet Addonizio (In a Box Called Pleasure: Stories, 1999, etc.). Diana McBride’s obsessive/compulsive disorder was simultaneously overlooked and intensified by her dipsomaniac, promiscuous mother, who forced Diana into beauty pageants as a child. Jamie Ramirez gave birth at 17 because her mother is an inconsistent feminist Catholic who tolerates contraception but bans abortion. Jamie and Diana’s paths cross at a baby store called Teddy’s World, the latest place of employment in Diana’s checkered career. Whenever her rituals and countings and washings become overwhelming, she moves on in hopes of a fresh start. Husband Tim has also opted for a fresh start, driven away by rules like, “Shower after emptying the trash.” An unpromising mother herself, Jamie chooses to keep baby Stella rather than give her up for adoption, unaware that the child is a marvel whose opinions and observations begin while she is still in the womb. “Babyhood is kind of confining, so far,” Stella observes, and unfortunately this Look Who’s Talking characterization is merely the most ill-judged aspect of a novel more intent on cozy conclusions than developing its one-note characters. The pace accelerates as if suddenly turbo-charged on the night of Jamie’s 18th birthday, when she picks up a boy, drops acid and takes a plane to New York. Stella abruptly falls mortally ill and begins communing with the dead wife of Anthony, a stranger who assisted at Stella’s birth and who now reappears in a bar. Diana sets aside her obsessions to save Stella, earning Anthony’s healing affections. Jamie rushes back to shoulder her burdens, and a tide of forgiveness floats everyone’s boat.

Addonizio fondly indulges her insightful babies, bad mothers and troubled young women, but fails to convince readers that they should do the same.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-7182-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


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.


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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