A lackluster entry in the men-who-write-mush category, which Nicholas Sparks (see below) still has pretty much to himself.

THE FOREVER YEAR

Can love last forever? Is forever longer than this interminable first novel?

After his wife dies, Mickey Sienna rattles around in his suburban New Jersey colonial. Physically frail but mentally sharp, the former stockbroker still trades online, but when he escapes an accidental kitchen fire, his grown kids put in their two cents. Maybe dear old dad should be parked in an assisted-living facility where he can’t hurt himself. Or at least sell the house and buy a smaller place. Yes, says Mickey, but what about the memories? Get out your handkerchiefs, because here come more than 50 years of marriage to saintly but dull Dorothy. They had some swell kids, too: Darlene, Matty, Denise, and a surprise fourth baby, Jesse, who’s 20 years younger than Darlene and trying to figure out why he gets along better with his nieces and nephews than with his siblings. (Hint: he’s amazingly immature.) This strapping toddler is now 32 and only just beginning to realize that the world does not revolve around him. But why? He thinks and thinks. “I was too young for one group and too old for the other. I was a man without a generation.” Jesse is a sensitive soul who’s wary of making a commitment but tired of playing the field, what with all that emotional scar tissue on his metaphorical heart. Yes, Jesse is a thoroughly modern Millie for the millennium, a man with genuine issues, who’s not afraid to talk about his feelings at great length, as if a talk-show audience were hanging on every word. A multitude of supporting characters give their opinions and add a few details about what happened when. Then there’s one last gasp from Dad, who explains about his long-lost love; he still loves her and she still loves ice cream. The message? Gather ye rosebuds, of course.

A lackluster entry in the men-who-write-mush category, which Nicholas Sparks (see below) still has pretty much to himself.

Pub Date: May 19, 2003

ISBN: 0-765-30405-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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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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