THE LOOP

A drier version of Jaws, from the bestselling British novelist (The Horse Whisperer, 1995) whose distinctions so far are of scale rather than content. Hope, Montana, is not exactly the crossroads of a million lives. Barely more than a crossroads itself, it’s a quiet ranching community whose inhabitants are mostly descendants of the original white settlers who moved in a hundred years ago. But a frightening rash of brutal wolf attacks—against both cattle and people—makes Hope the center of more attention than it had ever looked for. Dan Prior, the local rep of the US Wildlife Service, is an Eastern transplant whose long struggle to gain acceptance from the locals is threatened by his role as the enforcer of hated government conservation laws, and his life is suddenly made all the more difficult when the cattlemen (like ranchers Buck Calder and Abe Harding) take it upon themselves to kill the wolves in defiance of the Endangered Species Act. When the hunters are arrested and tried, a media riot puts Hope on the map and brings in its wake environmental crackpots as well as bona fide experts like biologist Helen Ross. Helen is opposed to killing the wolves, but her position is compromised by the adulation of Buck Calder’s teenaged son Luke, who falls in love with her. Luke’s troubled family is haunted by the death of his brother Henry some years earlier; his mother Eleanor responded to the death, and to her husband’s repeated infidelities, by losing her Catholic faith and retreating into depression and despair. Meantime, Helen really just wants to get to the bottom of the wolf slayings, while Buck is looking for trouble and Dan just wants to keep the townsfolk from blowing their lids altogether. Ah, how will it all end? The same sort of sentimental pastiche, written in the same New Age Harlequin prose, that made The Horse Whisperer one of the most inexplicable success stories of the 1990s. (First printing of 650,000; Literary Guild main selection; author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-31700-X

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Dell

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1998

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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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