Ambitious but lifeless first novel of a fictional town in Germany, between 1939-43, where even ``ordinary'' Aryan citizens are inevitably affected by the Nazi regime. Hershman's portrait and—in effect—indictment of Kreiswald, a town small enough so that most people know one another, is made up of individual stories, with a cast of common characters who increasingly behave as if ``slavery and murder were to be tolerated.'' As Thea, a member of the local resistance, observes: ``There was something called the national good. It entered our lives assiduously, like a whiff of perfume, seducing innocent and intelligent alike; by the end, caught lying with it under our soiled flag, we all stank.'' A sensitive clerk, Thorgood Stella, must record the executions at the police station. Unable to share his horror, he turns away from his young wife Gerda, whose flirtation with police Commander Terskan turns into an affair. Recovering from a stroke in the local hospital, the wife of one of the policemen discovers a hidden ward from which children disappear. An ambitious map-maker hopes to profit from the closing of Jewish businesses. He also embarks on an affair with his landlady, whose husband suddenly returns after working as a builder at Auschwitz. Beloved playmates turn out to be Jewish and are taken away; an amateur musician finds himself caught up in the Nazi enthusiasm as he leads a parade; and a young woman who hates the war is in love with a soldier, who promises her that he ``won't shoot.'' As British bombs destroy the town, police and resistance members race to get hold of the files from the now-bombed police station—documents that will reveal just what it was the citizens of Kreiswald did during the war. Commendable concept, with credible if somewhat too carefully chosen characters, but vitiated by self-conscious writing and intrusively unsubtle intentions. Disappointing.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 1991

ISBN: 0-06-016644-4

Page Count: 233

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1991

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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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