A fresh, chaotic and sexy updating of the cross-cultural experience.

REVENGE OF THE MOONCAKE VIXEN

Wildly profane and funny riffs on folklore, chronicling the adventures of two very modern Chinese-American sisters.

Mei Ling and Moonie Wong may live in contemporary California, but their iron-willed grandmother will not let the twins forget their ancestral land, or the wrongs done to it. On reading that a pond stocked with carp is a gift from the Japanese, Grandmother plucks an enormous fish from the water. “Remember this,” she instructs. “Hirohito was a mass murderer and a rapist and this pond was built with Chinese blood.” Then she smashes the carp’s head five times against a stone wall (“This one is for Manchuria, this one for Nanking…”) and takes it home to cook. Mei Ling and Moonie are supposed to forego all the temptations of modern San Diego and be dutiful, silent and chaste. Once they are old enough to drive, they have to spend holidays delivering mediocre Chinese-American food from their suburban family restaurant, “wearing red satin hapi coats with…‘Double Happiness’ embroidered on the back.” But like the heroines of some ancient Chinese drama, the sisters are too strong-willed for subservience. Mei Ling is unabashedly promiscuous, enjoying the multicultural young men she attracts, while Moonie flirts with homosexuality and violence, wreaking havoc on anyone who stands in her way. Forty brief vignettes (“Why Men Are Dogs,” “After Enlightenment, There Is Yam Gruel,” etc.) reveal that both girls are in fact much like their grandmother. In this loosely knit series of short stories, many of which are based on Buddhist and Taoist parables as well as Chinese ghost stories, poet Chin (Rhapsody in Plain Yellow, 2003) spins out two young lives with outrageous humor. Multifaceted rather than linear, magical rather than literal, these tales tend to focus on the twins’ childhood and adolescence, often presenting contrasting views of such similar rites of passages as dating and the loss of virginity.

A fresh, chaotic and sexy updating of the cross-cultural experience.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-33145-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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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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