Too cool for some readers; just right for others.

MALAFEMMENA

Edgy short stories about women in trouble abroad and at home from Ermelino (Joey Dee Gets Wise, 2015), the Reviews Director at Publishers Weekly.

“So there I was in Australia, in Sydney, working in a pub that recreated the Tyrolean Alps. I wore an appropriately humiliating costume and pink suede clogs….” “The ship ultimately left us, not in Singapore but on a tiny island off Malaysia that had never seen a tourist….” “Robin and Christina had a plan to meet in Le Havre and go on to Paris. In the flea market there they would buy backpacks, or as Robin, having been to Europe before, called them, rucksacks, and they would hitchhike, or as Robin called it, auto-stop, across Europe.” The characters in Ermelino’s 16 quick stories get around. They crack jokes, take opium, have ill-considered assignations, and are lucky to get out alive (some don’t). There are a lot of great lines and a few truly timeless questions (“Is Nicole Kidman wearing Zac Posen, and did she really buy her lasagna pan at Williams-Sonoma?” “They have room service in the Howard Johnson Motor Inn on Forty-Third Street?”), but it all goes by a little too quickly. Characters and situations are whisked away before we can really understand or get involved with them, and even very sad situations are presented with little emotion. Some of the stories are clearly more conceptual than narrative — “James Dean and Me,” for example, is an extended surrealist joke set on the Afghan border, which the narrator is trying to cross with her deceased movie-star friend. “Fish Heads” is a sketch about eating fish heads. “Where It Belongs” is a dark Italian folk tale–ish type thing set in Brooklyn.

Too cool for some readers; just right for others.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-941411-29-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Sarabande

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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