A dazzling, sometimes-lurid yet always lively adventure, indeed.

THE TRUE AND SPLENDID HISTORY OF THE HARRISTOWN SISTERS

The Seven Swiney Sisters of Harristown, Ireland, thrillingly rise from starvation to stardom.  

Raised on barely boiled potatoes and tales of their sailor father—whose unpredictable nocturnal visits are witnessed only by their mother, whom they do not entirely believe—the Swiney girls are blessed with fantastic rivers of hair, cascading below their knees and ranging in color from honey gold to copper red to the deepest black. They divide themselves into two tribes, each headed by one of the incessantly squabbling twins, Berenice and Enda. Redheaded, wry (and increasingly suspicious) Manticory, who narrates the saga, sides with Enda; the eldest sister, raven-tressed Darcy, is far too busy bullying everyone to join either tribe. After Manticory is nearly assaulted by a hair-obsessed maniac, Darcy conceives a plan to free the girls from poverty: The sisters devise a vaudeville show (using cleverly penned scripts by Manticory) filled with maudlin songs and hair-oriented skits. The finale features the sisters simply letting down their prodigious locks, to the delight of hair fetishists, hair-remedy quacks and neglected housewives. Under Darcy’s domineering supervision, the show is wildly successful. Soon enough, though, unscrupulous men manage to manipulate the young women financially and romantically. As if avoiding scandals and negotiating the perils of notoriety weren’t enough, Manticory begins to have doubts about the products they hawk, Darcy’s fiscal shenanigans and the mysterious small grave in the backyard of their Harristown home. Based on the true story of the Sutherland Sisters (whose own celebrity crashed after lavish spending sprees), Lovric’s (Book of Human Skin, 2011, etc.) tale is lush with delightful Irish rhythms and memorable characters, including Darcy’s childhood nemesis, Eileen O’Reilly, who longs to be part of the raucous Swiney clan but must settle for elaborate verbal combat.

A dazzling, sometimes-lurid yet always lively adventure, indeed.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62040-014-2

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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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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