What sets this one apart, though, and gives it promise isn’t Grace’s emancipation, but its spirit of playful inventiveness,...

SINGLE WIFE

A husband who makes a habit of disappearing, a loyal wife who covers for him: in a strong debut, Solomon explores the aftermath of one disappearance too many.

Laz and Grace Brookman are a well-heeled Manhattan couple in their 30s. For Grace, their five-year-old marriage has been blissfully happy; Laz is a charmer liked by everyone. True, he pressured Grace into giving up her job as a ceramics teacher (she loved it) and insisted they remain childless, but she went along without complaint. As for those disappearances, never more than a week at a time, Grace has learned to take them in stride. So when Laz disappears again, on Halloween, she begins her campaign of deception—and self-deception. She has learned her skills from her loving but overprotective parents, for whom “keeping people in the dark . . . was a gesture of love and devotion, not deceit.” It starts out as a fun project for Grace—fooling the housekeeper, and inventing reasons why Laz can’t attend her parents’ weekly Scrabble games. Even their best friend Kane must be deceived, not so easy when they’re playing a truth-telling game at a bar while downing Cosmopolitans. It’s the holiday season: Grace’s life is a whirl of games and festivities. But has Laz been playing a cruel game of his own? Rumors circulate that his latest book, on Kosovo and highly acclaimed, may have been based on a hoax; but Grace tunes them out. The turning-point comes with the appearance of the student Griffin, Laz’s son from a long-ago liaison, who’s looking for a first meeting with his father. As resentment builds in Grace, so she grows stronger, accepting the truth of a failed marriage. It’s all believable but overly familiar: think how many have traveled this road since Ibsen’s Nora flew the coop.

What sets this one apart, though, and gives it promise isn’t Grace’s emancipation, but its spirit of playful inventiveness, at times reminiscent of Iris Murdoch.

Pub Date: June 12, 2003

ISBN: 1-56512-382-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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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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