A story which offers less entertainment than it realizes.

DESIGN FLAWS OF THE HUMAN CONDITION

An indulgent tale of two recent acquaintances, one straight, one gay, who help each other deal with their issues.

Revenge is sweet but excesses are irritating in Schmidtberger’s debut, purportedly a comic novel. While devoting considerable space to the rage-inducing aspects of modern urban life, he expands inconsequential events and trivial conversations to inordinate length in a sometimes smartly phrased but generally synthetic story. Ken Connelly is stressed because he has to work three jobs: as an adjunct professor of English, a reference librarian and a proofreader at a law firm. He is dumped by his cheating boyfriend, Brett, then finds himself suspended from the library job (for defacing books) and sent on an anger-management course. There he meets overweight Iris, who had been justifiably rude to an air hostess, and the two become friends. Iris agrees to spy on Brett, only to discover he is happy with his new lover. Ken agrees to spy on Iris’s partner Jeremy, who has lied once and now turns out to have a close friend named Alicia. Ken gets over Brett. Iris loses weight and decides to dump Jeremy in favor of someone who will want only her. The two take mild revenge on their persecutors and vow to continue their friendship.

A story which offers less entertainment than it realizes.

Pub Date: July 17, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-7679-2675-1

Page Count: 338

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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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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