A slow, but ultimately rewarding tale of a lonely psychologist and her poetic client.

Marcel Malone

A novel examines a clinical psychologist, the healing power of verse, and a journey to self-discovery.

Life for Vera Lewis is unsatisfying. A typical evening begins with too many glasses of Chablis and ends with “clearing up dishes and misunderstandings with Raymond,” her egocentric Washington lobbyist spouse. After one client commits suicide and another is convicted of violent crimes, she questions her merit as a psychologist. She’s unable to connect with those around her, and conversations with friends and co-workers are brimming with thoughts unsaid. In short, Vera longs for more: “I would like to be filled with passion, for my work, my husband, to feel a constant tingle in my hands as though I were touching skin.” The only person who can break through the monotony is Marcel Malone, a painfully shy client who expresses himself through sonnets, haiku, and carefully metered speech. In an effort to better understand him, Vera, too, immerses herself in the world of poetry. Watts (Lessons for Tangueros, 2011) is a Ph.D., and this is where his background in academia bleeds through. Disappointed at the selections in a certain anthology or a dull chapter that she had to skim through, Vera embarks on one-sided arguments with scholars that read like a review of literature. In the midst of her adventures in verse, Vera is increasingly haunted by her past and disenchanted with her marriage, becoming dependent on sessions with Marcel. Jealous of his gradual recovery, she spirals into near-alcoholism, solitude, and self-doubt. At times, it can be hard to empathize with Vera. She is reserved, formal, and relentlessly analytical. Her world is one of white affluence—lunches at exclusive restaurants, bottles of expensive wine, showy dinner parties, and friends who are World Bank executives. But she is vindicated in the book’s final chapters, which offer a glimpse into life’s beauty and the opportunities for redemption. A dense and loaded work of fiction, this cerebral novel should certainly appeal to intellectuals and fans of feminist literature.

A slow, but ultimately rewarding tale of a lonely psychologist and her poetic client.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9973102-2-1

Page Count: 282

Publisher: Red Mountain Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2016

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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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