Knowing, touching and true.

AMIGOLAND

This exceptional first novel from Casares (Stories: Brownsville, 2002) chronicles a Mexican-American road trip.

In a Texas border town, two estranged brothers live mere miles apart. Don Fidencio, in his 90s, is the quintessential cantankerous old man. His grumbling provides comic relief from the pain he experiences at Amigoland, the nursing home in which his daughter and son-in-law (“The Son of a Bitch”) placed him and from which he is continually plotting his escape. Fidencio’s younger brother, Don Celestino, fills his empty retirement with a love affair with Socorro, a woman more than 30 years his junior. When the brothers reunite, Fidencio commands his younger sibling to take him on a road trip to the family’s old estate in Mexico. In an attempt to get closer to Celestino and reunite his broken family, Socorro convinces him to fulfill his brother’s wish. She comes along too, and the motley crew sets off across the border. Casares has a talent for dialogue. The characters are neither good nor bad, but refreshingly real, and sudden shifts in perspective allow readers to empathize with each one. His portrait of the endearing, complicated love between Celestino and Socorro offers a welcome and uncommon exploration of passion in old age. Simultaneously, pitch-perfect prose charts the brothers’ evolving, improving relationship. Casares allows his characters to embrace what they can become without forcing them to lose who they are. The book grapples with what it means to live on the border. Language, folklore and food all reinforce the paradox that the dividing line between Mexico and America is both real and fluid. In a dusty brown town, the journey of these three ordinary people provides a splash of color and spirit.

Knowing, touching and true.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-316-15969-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2009

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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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