In this feat of a novel, knowledge is a tiny first step on the way to understanding.

GOOD ON PAPER

A translator struggles to redefine her work, her family, and her sense of self.

Translation, done well, is less an act of comprehension than one of empathy—the translator must enter the writer’s head and decipher not only her words, but her intention. In Cantor’s (A Highly Unlikely Scenario, 2014) skillfully structured second novel, dilettante temp and single mom Shira Greene approaches translation work in stages: first she retypes, then she handwrites, scans for rhythm, takes notes, builds a lexicon, and ultimately throws the draft away before starting “the real business of translation, trusting that everything I’d noted had sunk into my cells.” Shira handles her relationships in a similarly convoluted way, dancing around and into them in bursts before stepping back to take stock. This tends to cause a fair amount of chaos, especially for her young daughter, Andi, and her old friend and surrogate co-parent, Ahmad, whose home they share. When Shira gets a telegram from a Nobel-winning poet about what seems like a dream translation project, she dives in despite the strangeness and reticence of the author. As his manuscript trickles in via fax, each section more impossible than the last, Shira’s personal life becomes just as tangled: Andi, feeling neglected, starts to act out; Ahmad, critical of Shira’s laissez faire parenting, threatens drastic measures; and Benny, a charmingly flawed rabbi and bookstore owner, seduces and rejects her in turns while hiding his own Noah-worthy flood of secrets. It’s a lot to absorb, but don't hesitate to try—Cantor clearly loves her characters, and she shows true mastery of their inner lives. Between endearingly wonky riffs about translation, she offers full access to Shira’s roller coaster of emotions, the collisions of her past and present, and keeps us hanging on through every curve. You’ll want to reread the final chapters more than once, delighted anew each time by how well Cantor speaks our language.

In this feat of a novel, knowledge is a tiny first step on the way to understanding.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61219-470-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more