A salon owner–turned-invalid-turned author struggles to make sense of her life, and sometimes so do we.

THE WOMAN WHO STOLE MY LIFE

The roller-coaster tale of a chatty Dublin woman rendered speechless, then renewed by the love of a good doctor—and a terrible literary agent.

From the Brontës to Maeve Binchy to Helen Fielding, British and Irish writers have long specialized in diarylike stories of ordinary women thwarted by unusual circumstances. The Limerick-born Keyes, now on her 13th novel (The Mystery of Mercy Close, 2013, etc.), offers an entertaining if choppy take on the genre. Her heroine, Stella Sweeney, shuttles between the present and recent past to unpeel a quirky love story. While muddling through a mediocre marriage blessed with two surly teens, Stella is felled by a sudden illness that confines her to the hospital for months, unable to move or speak. As her husband grows petulant and her children, more distant, Stella finds herself connecting only with her handsome neurologist, the perfectly named Mannix. He draws an articulate wisdom out of his patient that much of her rambling narrative doesn’t lead us to expect, and the two of them start a stormy relationship after Stella has healed and both their marriages have crumbled. When it turns out that—why not?—the doc has gone ahead and self-published a collection of bedridden Stella’s bons mots, it somehow winds up in the hands of the U.S. vice president’s wife in a photo in People  (yes, that’s as convoluted as it sounds). Thus begins Stella’s new career as a memoirist, feeding the American hunger for nuggets of clichéd advice resulting from extreme hardship. Her journey involves Manhattan, money-grubbing publishers, highbrow beauties, oddball relatives, and a lot of phone sex. It’s a fun romp, as they say, but be sure to bring your suspension of disbelief to the book release party.

A salon owner–turned-invalid-turned author struggles to make sense of her life, and sometimes so do we.

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-525-42925-8

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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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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