THE PATRON SAINT OF LOST DOGS

It’s tough to resist a good story that features four-legged creatures, which highlight this surprisingly upbeat tale about a son who returns home following the death of his long estranged father.

Cyrus Mills isn’t a warm, fuzzy kind of person, and choosing a career as a veterinary pathologist seems a logical choice: He’s following in his late mother’s footsteps, and he gets to work in solitude, which he prefers. When Robert Cobb, Cyrus’ father, dies and bequeaths Bedside Manor for Sick Animals to him, he returns to his former home in a small town in Vermont. Cyrus is eager to sell his inheritance and leave Eden Falls behind. He has few fond memories of his life there, except for the time he spent with his mother, and he needs the money from the sale to fund a legal battle to reinstate his license, which has been temporarily suspended following charges of wrongdoing filed by his former employer. But Cyrus quickly discovers that in addition to being a workaholic and an absentee dad, Dr. Cobb was mired in debt. Unless Cyrus can prove that his father’s heavily mortgaged veterinary clinic is worth a potential buyer’s investment—within the week—he’ll lose the sale, and it appears that a sinister banker and an anonymous blackmailer might be rooting against him. With a light touch and conversational tone, Trout (Ever by My Side, 2011, etc.) delivers a doggone charming tale. Rather than dispensing an overload of schmaltz, which is difficult to avoid in a feel-good story that introduces a magnitude of furry friends and their often eccentric owners, the author manages to successfully pull off a straightforward, energizing story with a message that doesn’t choke on its own sweetness. Cyrus, of course, transforms during the week as he’s forced to interact with each character, revisit his past and contemplate his future. He becomes an excellent healer, and with the help of a group of caring individuals, including a gentle mentor, an attractive waitress, a gruff receptionist and all of his four-legged friends, he also becomes one of the healed.

Two paws up.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4013-1088-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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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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