An overly ambitious novel that spans decades and covers a century’s worth of Fermina’s history. The flashbacks may be...

THE GIFTED GABALDÓN SISTERS

Four Latina sisters research their mysterious ancestry.

There always seem to be more questions than answers for Loretta, Bette, Rita and Sophia Gabaldón. Loretta begins the family’s tale in 1966. The adolescent girls are still reeling from the loss of their mother. Fermina, an ancient Native American with a strong spiritual side, has filled the shoes of the Gabaldón matriarch. Before Fermina’s death, she promises each girl a special gift. But the wizened old lady never clarifies the nature of her gift and the girls spend the next two decades trying to discover their inheritance. Each sister takes a turn narrating this tale of a scrappy California family (the father and the lone brother are ancillary characters—this book is all about women). Absent a mother, the teenage girls find lots of trouble—these women can’t quite seem to get their relationships right. Bette latches on to losers and criminals before deciding to go it alone as a single mom. Loretta throws herself into veterinary studies and leads a monkish existence. Sullen Rita embarks on a career that leads her to mix with society’s outcasts and leave her family far behind. And the baby, Sophia, perhaps makes the biggest mess of her life as she packs on the pounds and attaches to a good-for-nothing loaf. Perhaps if they come to terms with their past, they will break free from the shackles that bind them to unrewarding relationships. López (Soy la Avon Lady and Other Stories, 2002) jam-packs this work with drama, the highlight being an ill-fated Route 66 adventure in 1983.

An overly ambitious novel that spans decades and covers a century’s worth of Fermina’s history. The flashbacks may be skipped; the Gabaldón sisters alone offer ample fodder.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-446-69921-1

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2008

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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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