An unnerving literary experience, like finding a fiddleback spider on one’s shoe or a copperhead snake coiled and ready to...

Wicked Temper

Two runaway teenagers go on a crime spree and get lost in a backwoods region of the southern Appalachian Mountains in Thornhorn’s (I Be the Christis, the Kid Beheaded, 2014, etc.) novel.

Thirteen-year-old Tizzy Polk’s father is a tyrannical preacher who’s repeatedly warned her about boys like Matthew “Rebel Yell” Birdnell. The son of a pig farmer, Birdnell sees no future for himself in the mountains and wants out of Cayuga Ridge in the worst way—and when he steals his father’s ’49 Studebaker pickup, Tizzy, searching for some kind of freedom, joins him with a little persuasion. With a stolen gun, the two runaways commit a series of crimes, culminating in a murder, and attempt to evade the law by driving up some backwoods roads that lead to Riddle Top, a “great black crag with bristle hairs” that “gave up sunlight like a jagged miser then quickly stole it back.” When they meet its creepy inhabitants, they quickly realize that the scary stories about the dark mountain are true. A blend of Southern gothic and hillbilly noir, this story is utterly readable, in large part because of Thornhorn’s masterful use of dialect, rich description, and immersive use of atmospherics. The power of this story undeniably comes from the author’s darkly lyrical voice, and his sinister reimagining of Appalachia virtually comes alive on the page: “One tiny shack gave way to the next, each shack with its small barren field, desolate dead cornrows littered by blackbirds and autumn leaf.” Even minor plot inconsistencies and a relatively weak ending can’t detract from the overall power of this story. Like the lovechild of William Faulkner and H.P. Lovecraft, Thornhorn, with his unique narrative style and twisted insight into Southern life, makes this novel unforgettable.

An unnerving literary experience, like finding a fiddleback spider on one’s shoe or a copperhead snake coiled and ready to strike under one’s bed.

Pub Date: July 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9916496-7-9

Page Count: 316

Publisher: Rosasharn Press

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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