Bulawayo crafts a moving and open-eyed coming-of-age story.

WE NEED NEW NAMES

A loosely concatenated novel in which Darling, the main character and narrator of the story, moves from her traditional life in Zimbabwe to a much less traditional one in the States.

For Darling, life in Zimbabwe is both difficult and distressing. Her wonderfully named friends include Chipo, Bastard, Godknows and Sbho, and she also has a maternal figured called Mother of Bones. The most pathetic of Darling’s friends is Chipo, who’s been impregnated by her own grandfather and who undergoes a brutal abortion. The friends have little to do but go on adventures that involve stealing guavas in more affluent neighborhoods than the one they come from (disjunctively named “Paradise”), an act that carries its own punishment since the constipation they experience afterward is almost unbearable. Violence and tragedy become a casual and expected part of their lives. In one harrowing scene, their “gang” attacks a white-owned farm and both humiliates and brutalizes the owners. Also, after a long period of absence and neglect, Darling’s father returns, suffering from AIDS. Spiritual sustenance is rare and comes in the form of an evangelist with the unlikely but ripe name of Prophet Revelations Bitchington Mborro. Eventually, and rather abruptly, Darling moves from the heat and dirt of Zimbabwe to live with her Aunt Fostalina and Uncle Kojo in the American Midwest, a place that seems so unlike her vision of America that it feels unreal. In America, Darling must put up with teasing that verges on abuse and is eager to return to Zimbabwe, for her aunt is working two jobs to pay for a house in one of the very suburbs that Darling and her friends used to invade.  

Bulawayo crafts a moving and open-eyed coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: May 21, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-316-23081-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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