Moments of real vision, pathos and poetry, but never entirely convincing.

LIVERPOOL FANTASY

Cleverly conceived but sketchy first novel revisits John, Paul, George, and Ringo in an alternate 1987.

In this world, the Beatles broke up in 1962, when John Lennon walked out of Abbey Road Studios over management's decision to release treacle instead of honest rock-and-roll. George Harrison and Ringo Starr followed him back to Liverpool, but Paul McCartney followed his crowd-pleasing, bottom-line instinct (and Brian Epstein) to America. Without the Beatles, rock withered and the ’60s never became The Sixties. When we catch up with them, George is a Jesuit priest, teetering in and out of madness, John is an embittered crank on the dole tortured by visions of what might have been, and henpecked husband Ringo is his amusing, level-headed friend, rescuing Lennon from scrapes as they cadge drinks at the pubs, occasionally sitting in on gigs with other Mersey Beat has-beens like Gerry and the Pacemakers. McCartney, now Paul Montana, is a Vegas crooner, thrice-divorced (Nancy Sinatra was first), an embarrassing cross between Wayne Newton and Sammy Davis Jr. In crisis over the cancellation of his TV series, Paul decides to reunite the Beatles and recapture the flame of youth during his upcoming trip to perform for Queen Di. The novel plays out over one day in a Britain on the brink of being taken over by the far-right National Front; Julian Lennon is one of its rising stars. The now middle-aged boys drink and fight, perform and bond, struggle with the past, and finally accept their lots. Kirwan, leader of the Celtic band Black 47, first spun his fantasy as a play, and it shows. The characters are amalgams of identifying tics that would work better as stage business, and the larger political story playing out in the background feels like caulking slapped onto the joints between acts.

Moments of real vision, pathos and poetry, but never entirely convincing.

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-56025-497-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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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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