Australian newcomer Wilder offers a pocketful of stories that read by and large like apprentice pieces culled, say, mainly from writer-to-be student days. ``Beach Report'' is a word-sprightly satire in the manner of Barthelme, about a TV-jaded society whose members are happy to have their thinking taken over for them by visitors in flying saucers; ``The Vampire's Assistant at the 157 Steps'' (a maker of cheap movies overstays his welcome in a friend's cliff-house) follows in the sometimes revelatory real-is-surreal path; and what may be the best piece in the book (``The West Midland Underground'') creates a pensive collage of self and place and history as its narrator contemplates a legendary rail system. Nods in the direction of science fiction, though, end up as self-limiting exercises, as in ``The Man of Slow Feeling'' (a man finds that his sense-responses are delayed for three hours after any stimulus) and ``See You Later'' (another sees things only from a point 200 years too early in time). ``The Girl Behind the Bar is Reading Jack Kerouac'' is a slight story that eats its own tail, as the reader of a girl's stories gets drawn into a reenactment with her of the sexual events she's predicted-created in them. ``Joe's Absence'' overprepares its way to its jejune and unconvincing point that a young man is more interested in a sneak-peek at a writer-friend's stories than in a chance with the writer-friend's girl; ``Hector and Freddie'' chronicles the sexual confusions of two repressed Oxford students, trying for thematic height and sexual candor but hitting short of the first and generally trivializing the second; and the callow and undergraduate-toned ``Aspects of the Dying Process,'' about sex and unrequited love among the very young, takes itself seriously in a way its people and material simply can't sustain (`` `How do you get your jeans faded like that?' he asked her''). Deeply uneven, wanting more time to age. The title story, by the way, in case you're wondering, is an ironic little one-pager, deliberately flat as a pancake.

Pub Date: July 22, 1991

ISBN: 0-393-30785-9

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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