AN EYE FOR DARK PLACES

A fantastic reality beyond the bleak one offered a lonely woman—at the end of her tether in a fragmented future England- -serves as the wellspring of hope in this ambitious, original debut from Illinois-based Marder. Locked in a loveless marriage, Sephony sees hands everywhere: scuttling across floors, clawing up the furniture, and dancing duets in the most unlikely places. Neither her practical husband nor her self-absorbed children see what she sees or understand what she feels, so when a hole appears in the pantry floor and a mysterious stranger carrying two chickens beckons her to descend a ladder after him into it, she puts on her coat and follows. Her guide, Claro, takes her through a wondrous terra incognita full of strange sights and creatures, eventually bringing her to the treehouse where he lives with his family. Although she's fallen in love with him, she is soon forced to return to her own domain, coming through another hole into a jungle in the midst of what used to be Regent's Park in London. With her homecoming strained by her refusal to tell either the family or the police where she went, Sephony increases the distance from the life she had by renewing a long-lapsed acquaintance with Aaron, her first love. She also turns her back on her privileged kind by caring for the Dulls—an entire class of behaviorally conditioned laborers living a subhuman existence in warrens in the city—and finally leaves her husband in order to be with Aaron—regaining the love of her rebellious daughter in the process. Painfully overextended and sketchy at times, but, still, an imaginative first effort from a distinctive voice that deserves to be heard again.

Pub Date: July 6, 1993

ISBN: 0-316-54606-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

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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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