Poetic, mythical, literate, laced with allusions to the world’s literature, this novel is a stew in which the flavors never...

WAR, SO MUCH WAR

A boy runs away to join the war and tells the horrific tales of his incessant travels.

Rodoreda’s last novel creates a nightmare world inhabited by Adrià Guinart, a 15-year-old who leaves “the prison of [his] home” with his friend Rossend. They become separated, and Adrià begins an endless journey, with the destruction and death of war always near. The story plays out in a series of encounters with iconic characters—the hanged man, the miller’s wife, a wise man, a hermit—all within a stark landscape reminiscent of Kafka and the fantastical apparitions of Garcia Márquez. It's a series of fairy tales held together by the narrative of a boy wandering a mythical world. Then the novel takes a different turn with a Gothic interlude. Adrià is taken into a house where Senyor Ardèvol and his housekeeper, Senyora Isabel, care for him, sheltering him from his nightmares in which “Death, with green teeth, sat on the belly of a cloud.” There is respite, and a family atmosphere, except for Ardèvol’s being consumed by an old mirror in the hallway where he sees disembodied eyes next to his own reflection. Adrià reads the papers left to him after Ardèvol’s death and pieces together the story of his life. When he forgoes the inheritance left him by the dead man, the story of wandering the bleak landscape resumes, and Adrià continues on his way to witness “everything that I had just seen but did not exist.”

Poetic, mythical, literate, laced with allusions to the world’s literature, this novel is a stew in which the flavors never quite come together.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-940953-22-9

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Open Letter

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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