Misplaced emphases and a somewhat sanctimonious lead weaken an otherwise robust debut.


A coming-of-age story is merged with a Civil War tale in Taylor’s debut novel.

Narrator John Naro, of Lynchburg, Va., turns 16 the day in 1861 that his state secedes from the Union. The town rejoices but his father’s reaction is muted, even though his wool mill benefits from new orders, necessitating the purchase of more slaves. The reality of the war hits home when cousin Sam returns, having lost a leg at Manassas. The following year John’s father allows him to leave for Charlottesville, to become a medical student at the University of Virginia (the author’s alma mater); it’s here that John’s story really starts. The war soon forces him to move from the classroom to the adjacent hospital, where he accompanies his professor, Dr. Cabell, on rounds, gaining priceless hands-on experience; his limited spare time he spends courting Lorrie, Cabell’s beautiful but prickly niece. Taylor wears the past as comfortably as an old shoe, and the credibility of John’s hospital experience is the novel’s greatest strength; however, this tight focus sometimes seems like tunnel vision. It’s not as though life back in Lynchburg lacks for drama. On a visit home, John finds Sam, now running the mill, has freed all the slaves, to the dismay of their picketing neighbors. Yet his family, falling apart as bankruptcy looms, gets less attention from the author than a Christmas dinner Lorrie prepares for the hospital, or her elite social circle. While John labors selflessly in the wards, his rejection of his now invisible family becomes ice-cold and total. He replaces them with a surrogate father, a lieutenant from the North whose life he saved, and Lorrie, who he marries in 1864. The surrender of the university, quietly negotiated by the faculty chairman, counts for less than John’s marital problems. His desperate attempt to end those problems leads to a melodramatic turnaround.

Misplaced emphases and a somewhat sanctimonious lead weaken an otherwise robust debut.

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4165-5065-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2008

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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