A lovely deliverance of a debut, the writing quietly sure, the course of true love meandering through its pages, as untidy...


Though tethered to the rude vicissitudes of everyday life, this fine, sly first novel also boasts a sweet, intoxicating buffer of magic and apocalypse.

The story opens with Buddy, a made-for-TV wrestler, on the skids and headed for the edge. Our boy is just barely keeping it together with pills and beer and memories. Four years ago, Buddy’s wife Alix left him, taking his much-loved daughter to go live with the director of a movie company that had come to their hometown, Wilmington, North Carolina. Since then, Buddy has gone from wrestling hero to fall guy. Deliberately losing hundreds of bouts in a row suitably reflects his rather crummy life and his oddball company of friends. Connelly draws this sidewise and impermanent world with a lighter-than-air hand, delineating a fragile existence shattered when a loony fan from the dark side of professional show wrestling shoots Buddy and a number of his ring cohorts. As Buddy seeks recovery, redemption, and reunion, Connelly keeps the action off-kilter. Buddy will meet his double, who tenders sound advice on more than one occasion; there will be a miracle (right out of Amal and the Night Visitors); one of Buddy’s homeless chums will discover the beauty of Svobodian utopianism; Buddy will fake amnesia in a ruse to win back his wife. The nimble prose has plenty of momentum; this is a story of winning back love, and readers will be pulling for Buddy. The plot backdrop—a Texas-sized asteroid headed toward Mother Earth—is, believe it or not, unobtrusive: Connelly’s magicalism is modest enough to register without a blink, and the apocalypse is more aura than menace, trivial in comparison to the cataclysm that is Buddy’s daily grind.

A lovely deliverance of a debut, the writing quietly sure, the course of true love meandering through its pages, as untidy as a construction site.

Pub Date: July 5, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-4664-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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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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