A human, humane, and uplifting story.

OUTSIDE MYSELF

Witucki offers a bittersweet novel about a friendship between two blind people of different ages.

Middle school student Tallie Keller has been blind since birth and feels constantly frustrated and upset with her family, her schooling, and her life in general. Then she becomes acquainted with a middle-aged librarian, Benjamin Brown, who was born with sight but lost his vision over time. They meet when Tallie calls him for library assistance and they start a conversation that extends over multiple calls. Tallie, who’s white, feels hemmed in by the limitations that blindness puts on her already difficult middle school life; Benjamin, an African-American, has lived a long and painful existence, facing social prejudices against his race and his disability, as well as poverty and other personal tragedies. An extraordinary year of learning and friendship ensues for them both, as Benjamin helps Tallie to accept both her sightlessness and her potential. Overall, Witucki’s characters are three-dimensional and warm, but the story never feels sappy or sentimental. (The on-the-nose quality of a blind character’s last name being Keller is impossible to ignore, but it doesn’t harm the narrative.) Witucki’s central themes of accepting one’s limitations without capitulating to them, the possibility of two people striking up a friendship despite their differences, and the ways in which fear limits possibilities in life are compelling. The dialogue is clear and believable throughout, and the novel’s alternating points of view feel both conversational and tightly structured. The story expresses aspects of blind living that may be unfamiliar to many, and as Tallie learns to step outside herself, so will readers.

A human, humane, and uplifting story.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-942545-99-6

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2018

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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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