An engaging fantasy story about letting go of the past and learning to love oneself.

The Three Graces

Three young women, shaken by mysterious episodes in which they transcend time and space, forge an unlikely friendship in Wolfe’s charming debut novel.

It’s the fall semester at Boulder, Colorado’s Stone College for juniors Jessie, Sara, and Isabel, but midterm exams are the least of these girls’ worries. For each girl, what started as a few unsettling sensations—such as hearing music when none was playing or inexplicably smelling salt water—becomes something far more intense. It turns out that each co-ed has access to a hidden world. Their experiences, which seem like premonitions, aren’t always pleasant: Jessie becomes trapped inside a maze; Isabel finds herself marooned in a seaside cave; and chains “slither up” Sara’s arms and legs. As pressures at home and school begin to mount, the girls escape to California for what’s supposed to be a fun-filled getaway. However, their baffling out-of-body incidents continue. During a visit to Hearst Castle, Jessie, Sara, and Isabel are drawn toward a marble statue depicting the goddesses Brilliance, Joy, and Bloom. Can the connections they establish with the deities help them conquer their fears and put an end to their otherworldly excursions? Or has it just brought them closer to the forces they hope to escape? Although several supernatural elements skirt around the plot’s edges, the focus of this tale is on friendship. Jessie, Sara, and Isabel find one another at a critical point, as each woman questions herself and her future. Although the strange places in which they find themselves can be unsettling, it’s a credit to Wolfe that the most memorable passages are set in the real world. One such scene comes early in the novel as Isabel, who struggles to connect with her parents, watches her mother loosen her father’s boots after the old man has fallen asleep in his recliner: “It was only in moments like this, just glimpses really, when she felt anything for them,” Wolfe writes. “And how horrible was that?” Other epiphanies reveal themselves just as quietly, making for an unexpectedly tender—and honest—coming-of-age tale.

An engaging fantasy story about letting go of the past and learning to love oneself. 

Pub Date: June 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-941668-02-3

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Then Three Graces

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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