As an astute judge of character, Everett recognizes that wounds are an essential part of the human condition. The...

WOUNDED

Frontier justice takes a contemporary turn in this Western novel of literary ambition and psychological depth.

Amid the wilds of Wyoming, the latest from the prolific Everett (American Desert, 2004, etc.) finds racists and homophobes supplanting cattle rustlers as threats to societal stability. The novel’s first-person narrator is John Hunt, a horse trainer who specializes in problem animals and a rancher who seems to attract human strays. As a strong man who does a tough job in a hard place, the uncommonly reflective widower reveals himself slowly. He’s one of the few black residents in a region of whites and American Indians. He’s also far better educated than most of his neighbors, with a New England prep school pedigree and a degree in art history from Berkeley (paintings by Paul Klee and Kandinsky grace his ranch house walls). One can’t take the measure of Hunt too quickly, and he does his best to extend the same courtesy to others, though he plainly prefers animal companionship to that of most humans. Within this “live and let live” society, the murder of a homosexual, followed by the arrival of protesters, sparks a series of hate crimes (with racial epithets as calling cards) that law enforcement seems powerless to prevent. Hunt shines as the novel’s beacon of decency, but Everett surrounds him with more characters than the novelist takes space to develop and some plot devices (a metaphor-heavy cave, a three-legged coyote) that scream Symbolism 101. Yet the narrative voice remains thoughtful and consistently engaging, while the momentum of the plot accelerates as complications ensue. A man who strives to adhere to moral absolutes, Hunt embodies a perfection that can aggravate some who are closest to him, who feel that they fall short. Both Hunt and the reader ultimately discover that such perfection comes at a price.

As an astute judge of character, Everett recognizes that wounds are an essential part of the human condition. The possibility of healing gives his novel its redemptive power.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-55597-427-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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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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