A thinking man's novel, containing all the rugged elements of Western allure.

FIVE SKIES

An emotionally bleak novel by noted short-story writer Carlson (A Kind of Flying, 2003, etc.) develops a strong, touching bond among three male workers on an isolated building crew in the Idaho mountains.

Three men of very different backgrounds end up working closely over a period of two months on a stunt-ramp construction project out in the wilds of the West: Darwin Gallegos, a widower and 40-year foreman at the Rio Difficulto ranch, is the project manager, who decides perhaps too impetuously to hire two laborers loitering in Pocatello, Idaho, and bring them west to the canyon river site outside the ranch. Arthur Key is hugely built, has considerable experience constructing movie sets in L.A. and is fleeing trouble back in California; his brother, Gary, a film stuntman, has been recently killed in an accident, leaving Key full of guilt for the affair he was conducting with Gary’s wife and eager to take on any work that allows him to forget the tragedy. Ronnie Panelli is a hapless 19-year-old fresh out of juvenile jail for stealing cars, a former golf caddy who knows little about construction or roughing it and is constantly getting hurt. Gradually, the men warm to the rigors of the work and each finds his specialty—Darwin is the chef, Ronnie the carpenter and Arthur the canny figurer of plans. Ronnie’s troubles include being punctured in the shoulder with a long splinter while they are setting telephone poles and embroiling himself romantically with a local girl. The townies from Mercy get wind of the crew’s work and attempt to disrupt it. The increasing trust among the men engenders a heartfelt and healing friendship, especially for Arthur, whose filial protectiveness for Ronnie reflects the way he once cared for his younger brother. Flashbacks fill in Arthur's affair with Gary’s wife. The ending, however, is harsh and grim.

A thinking man's novel, containing all the rugged elements of Western allure.

Pub Date: May 21, 2007

ISBN: 0-670-03850-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

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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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