The process of procurement is duly horrific, but the procurer’s transformation from ruthless to compassionate, even with the...

UNDER THE SKIN

An eerie debut novel from Faber, Dutch-born, turns the Scottish Highlands into a landscape from The Twilight Zone as Scotland’s brawny best meet their match in the diminutive Isserly, who takes many of them on a short ride from which there’s no return.

Isserly is like a woman possessed as day after day she cruises back and forth on the Highland highways on the lookout for male hitchhikers with big thighs and broad chests. Once she finds one, she gives him a lift and immediately puts him at ease by placing her own ample chest on display. The whole of her is strange—dwarflike, heavily scarred, Coke-bottle glasses—but the huge breasts are what hold the eye of her passenger, keeping him transfixed while she engages him in conversation. If the talk goes in one direction, Isserly lets her man go, but if she gets the answers she seeks, her breath grows shallow, her heart races, and she flips the switch that will drug the man through his seat, incapacitating him long enough for her to drive him back to her remote farmhouse, where he will undergo an experience outdoing his worst nightmare. Isserly, it turns out, is a procurer from another planet whose job—for which she’s been surgically altered in a way that leaves her in constant pain—is simply, well, to bring home the bacon. But she has fallen in love with this world of sea and snow so unlike her own, and when a handsome visitor from her world arrives to remind her that in spite of her mutilation her feelings are not dead, she realizes she’s no longer able to do her job.

The process of procurement is duly horrific, but the procurer’s transformation from ruthless to compassionate, even with the conventional budding-romance twist, provides a more compelling dimension—and it’s enhanced by the superbly evoked imagery of the Highlands.

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-15-100626-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

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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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