THE VICTIM'S DAUGHTER

From poet and short-story writer Wilson (Dancing for Men; Living Alone; Terrible Kisses), a first novel that tries for psychological depth but, in this longer form, lingers on the shoals of formula instead. As luck would have it, Melissa Allen's divorced father is murdered in his house on the very night that Melissa comes home for her 15th high-school reunion in the small town of Scoggin, Maine— to discover her father, in his study, with his skull caved in. This isn't Melissa's first acquaintance with violence and blood. At age 15, she had an abortion (to her it was murder); her own husband, a deranged Vietnam vet, became a particularly grisly suicide; and now she is witness to her father's brutally spilled blood. What Melissa doesn't know is that her parents divorced because her father came out of the closet, or that her father since then has been entertaining young schoolboys regularly in his bedroom. Was he murdered, then, by the ex-boxer and ne'er-do-well the local cops want to pin the crime on, with a motive of robbery; or was he in fact murdered by the morally outraged father of one of the seduced and sodomized boys—by the same man (now a doctor) who got Melissa pregnant back when she was 15, whose own wife is recently dead of cancer, and in whose bed Melissa now picks things up more or less where they were left off years before? Moral complexities and overtones are bullied aside as Melissa pinballs between the rather staged and public-issue-drenched symmetries of her past and her present. Meanwhile, sent from the state attorney general's office to help investigate the murder is the divorced, world-weary, heavy- smoking Inspector Willard Strand, whose 60-year-old heart is awakened to new possibilities by his willing and bright assistant, the blond, fit, shapely 38-year-old Eleanor. In all, small-town melodrama on an occasionally vivid but generally hyper-familiar stage.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-671-72618-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1991

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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