Some marvelously rendered sketches of domestic torment and grief are lost in a rambling and largely unfocussed narrative—and...


Disappointingly tame fare from the talented Bledsoe (Cougar Canyon, 2002, etc.).

Christine never seems to have gotten over the unexplained loss, 30 years ago, of her baby brother Timothy, who vanished without a trace as a five-year-old. The fact that Christine (then age ten) and her sister Liz were responsible for keeping an eye on Timothy as he swam in a campground lake gave an added guilt to the tragedy, which seemed to disfigure Christine both emotionally and psychologically. A lesbian malcontent, Christine practices medicine in a rough neighborhood of San Francisco and appears to be as dissatisfied with her career as she is with her perpetually unsettled love life. In apparent contrast, her sister Liz is happily married to her high-school sweetheart Mark, the two living in utopian domesticity on a small farm not far from the Bay Area. But Liz has her quirks, too: her penchant for taking troubled children into her home bespeaks a similar, more deeply buried, guilt. When Liz and Mark invite Christine on a camping trip (along with Lenny, their latest juvenile delinquent, and Mark’s secretary Melody), however, the stresses eventually crack. Unspoken resentments flare up between the sisters, only to be fanned into open flames when Christine discovers that Melody is having an affair with Mark (whom Christine herself secretly bedded many years ago). If this sounds like typical family angst, it isn’t—not with the ghost of a vanished child hovering over everyone. Can there be any relief from the anxieties of Timothy’s loss? Only if the truth can be found.

Some marvelously rendered sketches of domestic torment and grief are lost in a rambling and largely unfocussed narrative—and the denouement comes so much out of nowhere that it falls flat.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-55583-773-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Alyson

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


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.


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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