A reckoning with the legacies of colonialism and slavery and their reverberations in the present day.

FINGERPRINTS OF PREVIOUS OWNERS

A young woman unearths the violent history of her Caribbean home.

Nobody on Myrna’s island talks about the place’s past: plugged deep in the Caribbean, it once housed a plantation owned by a man named Cruffey, along with his slaves. Most of the island’s current black-skinned residents, Myrna included, are descendants of those slaves. Many of them share Cruffey’s last name. To talk about that past is verboten; to visit the ruins of the estate, even more so. In any case, those ruins have long since been overgrown by brush. Now, the focal point of the island is the tourist resort that has taken over most of it. Wealthy white patrons lounge by the pool, their backs to the sea. Myrna works as a maid. Whenever a new boatload of visitors arrives, she and the rest of the staff play out a troubling diorama. The white workers dress up as Columbus; the black workers, descendants of slaves, dress up as “natives”—none of whom have survived to the present day. This is the first novel by Entel, a professor of African-American and Caribbean literature at Cornell, and it is a magnificent one. Her prose is lyrical, luminous, and each detail has been planted as precisely as a foundation stone. Myrna begins spending her evenings struggling through the brush to the island’s interior, where the ruins are located. The way is difficult. Her skin and clothes are snagged by thorns. She hardly knows what she’s looking for. Then, one day, a black American woman shows up, a tourist, with a large book Myrna soon catches sight of: The Cruffey Plantation Journal: 1833. It’s the most explicit reference to the island’s past Myrna has come across. As Myrna pursues the book and the ghosts of the island’s past, long-buried tensions begin to rise. The dioramas staged by the resort staff grow crueler, more violent. In a way, Myrna’s project echoes Entel’s larger one: both Myrna and Entel seek to unearth a long-buried history; both of them seek to give voice to those who have been silenced. Here’s hoping that Entel follows her first novel with many more.

A reckoning with the legacies of colonialism and slavery and their reverberations in the present day.

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-944700-23-2

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Unnamed Press

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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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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