Compared to the expressive, deeply felt chapters about Yasodhara’s family, Munaweera’s depiction of war-torn Sri Lanka,...

ISLAND OF A THOUSAND MIRRORS

The Sri Lankan civil war’s traumatic effect on the island nation's people—and one family in particular—is the subject of this verdantly atmospheric first novel.

After a graphic post-coital prologue, Sri Lanka born California resident Munaweera begins her family saga in 1948, when the British leave their former colony Ceylon, where the Tamil majority is looked down on by the lighter-skinned Sinhala ruling class. Nishan and his twin sister, Mala—children of an ambitious Sinhala teacher and a laid-back doctor of uncertain bloodlines—leave their coastal village to attend university in Colombo. Free spirit Mala falls in love with another student and marries without traditional arranged nuptials. Nishan, an engineer, is deemed acceptable to marry aristocratic Visaka, the daughter of an Oxford-educated Sinhala judge, only because the judge’s expenditures while renovating his home shortly before his death have left his family financially strapped. Visaka’s mother has recently had to rent out the upstairs of her house, and Nishan does not know that Visaka marries him while pining for Ravan, one of her mother’s Tamil tenants. Ravan and his new wife live upstairs while Nishan and Visaka move in downstairs, where they raise daughters Yasodhara and Luxshmi. Yasodhara’s closest playmate and soul mate is Ravan’s son Shiva. The children live there in innocent bliss until 1983, when Mala’s husband is brutally murdered by an angry mob during increasing Tamil-Sinhala unrest. Nishan and Visaka react by moving to America, where their daughters soon assimilate. But after a college relationship ends badly, Yasodhara allows her parents to pick a husband for her. As Yasodhara’s marriage falls apart, successful artist Luxshmi returns to Sri Lanka to teach children wounded in the war. Meanwhile, in northern Sri Lanka, a young Timor girl is drawn into the intensifying civil war until her life’s destiny crosses those of Luxshmi and Yasodhara.

Compared to the expressive, deeply felt chapters about Yasodhara’s family, Munaweera’s depiction of war-torn Sri Lanka, though harrowing, seems rushed and journalistic, more reported than experienced.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-04393-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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