A mature rumination on war that will have extra appeal for WWII buffs.

EIGHTEEN IN 1942

McCall (Set Apart, 2010) offers a small-town coming-of-age story that deepens as it blends into real-life World War II history.

Eighteen-year-old Corbin O’Connell lives in Judson, Pennsylvania, a charming small town that’s reminiscent of It’s a Wonderful Life’s Bedford Falls (but without Mr. Potter). Corbin is being pursued by the conniving Velma Hix, but he’s really in love with Daisy Hall. However, Daisy and Corbin’s best friend, John Ottinger, the scion of Judson’s richest family, have long been an item, and Corbin respects that. Desperate to escape the farm, Corbin sees joining the Army, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, as a godsend. In the late summer of 1942, he and a reluctant John arrive in Europe—months after D-Day, when the war is expected to safely wind down. But instead, they’re just in time for the Battle of the Bulge, Germany’s last desperate move. Very soon, Corbin is captured, and he’s eventually taken to Berga, a slave-labor camp. The brutality that the men experience there is nearly unimaginable, as their sadistic captors hold the Geneva Convention protocols in contempt. As the men starve and freeze, they hear the American and British planes overhead; they’re eventually saved only by the German surrender. Overall, McCall is an adept writer who delivers by showing the everyday aspects of war, as well as the big picture: “Veneered over the devastation of war was the confusion of war—the delayed, lost and wrong information that was, in its own way, nearly as damaging as bullets flying at the front.” The novel becomes even more engrossing in later chapters when Corbin gets back to Judson—and he’s a far different person from the kid who thought his escape would be a lark.

A mature rumination on war that will have extra appeal for WWII buffs.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9845589-2-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: JJ Publishers

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2017

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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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