FIVE WOMEN

Plot is not a crucial element in this latest from the prolific Jaffe (The Cousins, 1995, etc.). Here, an exploration of five women's lives is light on action, heavy on melodrama. Every so often four friends—psychologist Gara Whiteman; attorney Felicity Johnson; twice-divorced, former suburban housewife Kathryn Henry; and minor-league actress Eve Bader— convene at Yellowbird, an Upper East Side restaurant/bar owned by onetime singing sensation and native Texan Billie Redmond. Each of the women has traveled a rocky path on her way to upper-middle- class (or higher) life in Manhattan; with the semi-regular meetings at Yellowbird the only device holding their stories together, each reveals her past, describes her present miseries and misfortunes, and, ultimately, moves on to a better and brighter future—thanks to a little (but not enough to connect the five stories adequately) help from their friends. Gara's longtime husband leaves her for another, much younger woman, and Gara is diagnosed with breast cancer. Felicity's husband is abusive—and her lover isn't much better. Kathryn is running from the many people who've hurt her in the past, including her alcoholic father and two undesirable husbands. And Eve, who's never made it big in Hollywood or on Broadway, is struggling with a daughter who's a star on screen and stage. In the meantime, Billie, after a series of hard knocks, has built Yellowbird into a success. Idiosyncratic as ever, she brings her young son to the bar every night, where's he's doted on by the patrons, including two transvestite regulars. More a series of character sketches than a novel, though the story nonetheless manages to charm, thanks to Jaffe's lively, distinctly drawn protagonists. (Literary Guild featured alternate selection)

Pub Date: July 30, 1997

ISBN: 1-55611-505-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Donald Fine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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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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