An icon of Haitian literature serves up a hotblooded, rib-ticking, warmhearted mélange of ghost story, cultural inquiry,...


If you’ve ever wondered what ingredients to use to create a zombie out of a living person (and how exactly does one extract the bones of a garter snake’s middle ear?), your search ends with this one-of-a-kind novel.

“I died on the night of the most beautiful day of my life.” So begins the testimony of Hadriana Siloé, a sensuous pale-skinned Creole woman who, on the Saturday evening of Jan. 29, 1938, in her Haitian village of Jacmel, collapses at her wedding altar. She had earlier taken a mysterious potion that induces what we would now label “living death.” She is buried in the midst of a village bacchanal and later revived by an evil sorcerer. Keep in mind, however, that two-thirds of the book passes before Hadriana gives us her side of the story. Before then, this ribald, free-wheeling magical-realist novel, first published in 1988 and newly, engagingly translated by Glover, examines this traumatic event from many different angles, drawn from before and after Hadriana’s…um...passage. There is, for example, the legend of a libidinous young Jacmel citizen transformed into a libidinous butterfly enjoying carnal knowledge of most of the women in town; a town that undergoes precipitous decline tied to Hadriana’s misfortune. These and other aspects of the novel’s central catastrophe are filtered through the recollections and research of a man named Patrick, whose youthful ardor for Hadriana endures throughout the decades of her afterlife. Patrick, who seems a surrogate for the now-90-year-old Depestre, shows himself throughout to be a true savant on all things zombie, from the aforementioned recipe for “zombie poison” and its antidote to the celebrated cases of “Lil’ Joseph [the] zombifier” and the dead-woman-walking known as “Gisèle K.” By the time you’ve wandered these spooky, sultry corridors of Haiti’s collective subconscious, you’re persuaded that the true sorcery being practiced here is that of a mature artist coming to terms—and making peace—with “the natural, the comical, the playful, the sensual, and the magical aspects of Jacmel’s painful past.”

An icon of Haitian literature serves up a hotblooded, rib-ticking, warmhearted mélange of ghost story, cultural inquiry, folk art, and véritable l’amour.

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61775-533-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Akashic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


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.


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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