With emotional resonance, an innovative structure and a unique narrator, Thomas crafts a book that's greater than the sum of...

BRIDGE

A novel in stories that brings readers deep into the eccentric and neurotic mind of its protagonist.

Thomas (Dragging the Lake, 2006, etc.) links these 56 stories with a consistent voice. Alice—a lonely, at times suicidal woman—narrates the minutiae of her life with insight and wit. She's a word processor at a law firm, a job she compares to being a paramedic: “somewhere between an emergency room resident and a taxi driver.” Thomas’ prose in these episodic vignettes is tight and vivid. In each two-to-three page installment, solipsistic Alice is given black humor and memorable one-liners. In “¿Qué Pasó?” she recounts a short interaction with a co-worker and examines issues of love, power and language. She determines, “[n]othing is as infuriating as someone who acts as if they’re just saying something and not doing something by saying it.” These sharp observations are characteristic of Alice's perspective. As she looks at the Golden Gate Bridge, thinks about marine biology and discusses opera, she considers the soul, consequences and death. In “Capital Punishment,” she notes, “[s]ometimes suicide is nothing more than a way of saying ‘No, actually I was not being ironic. I meant it.’ ” In “Naming a Baby,” she remembers one particularly biting comment her mother made about her grandmother’s cooking. She decides, “[t]hat’s the worst, isn’t it? To take the one thing someone does well, the one wildflower that barely survives in the shadow of their mountain of mediocrities, and tell them that’s it, that’s what I hate about you.” To a reader looking for an action-packed plot, Alice’s digressions and the extreme interiority of the book might become exhausting. But there is a payoff; the stories function as building blocks that fit within an overarching narrative. They proceed chronologically as Alice’s depression intensifies and she struggles to find a way out from her abyss.

With emotional resonance, an innovative structure and a unique narrator, Thomas crafts a book that's greater than the sum of its parts.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-938160-48-6

Page Count: 152

Publisher: BOA Editions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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