A second collection, like Morgan's first (The Blue Valleys, 1989), that's set in the Blue Ridge Mountains and ranges from post- Revolutionary times to the present. It deals mostly with poor whites who are faced with death, betrayal, and greed. The best pieces include a historical element or personal quest and rise above mere local color. The title story concerns an old woman in a nursing home who has lost a foot. She's lived through two marriages, but near the end of her life she's drawn to search out the facts surrounding the death of her first fiancÇe in the war. Likewise, in ``Death Croon,'' the narrator visits dying Alice. The female narrator was ``Alice's favorite in the family,'' but now the dying woman smells ``like some electric spark, a warm radio,'' and Morgan again vividly splices together past and present instances until Alice reaches the release of ``beautiful death.'' ``Poinsett's Bridge'' is the saga of a chimney-builder who goes to South Carolina to help build a bridge and stays until it's finished—despite flash floods and the mistreatment of paid help and slaves—because of his pride in workmanship and his sense of historical mission. The other pieces too often make too much of nothing: in ``Frog Level,'' a wife enters a local mall and sees her philandering Vietnam-vet husband with yet another woman; the ensuing chase, far too long, becomes a kind of travelogue. In ``The Bullnoser,'' a mother and her grown unemployed child (the narrator) talk about the debt their Daddy left them; the narrator then tries to recoup the family's loss by taking on the white trash who suckered Daddy out of his home—but the story veers off and never quite finds its center. A collection notable mainly for its vivid regionalism. Some of these pieces appeared originally in Epoch, Pembroke Magazine and Southern Review.

Pub Date: June 15, 1992

ISBN: 1-56145-049-9

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1992

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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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