With prose that ranges from the humorous to the lyric and forms that range from the real to the magical, here is a vital...

THE FEMALE COMPLAINT

TALES OF UNRULY WOMEN

Thirty-six spellbinding stories about the active, spirited lives of women.

Female characters are still often relegated to the shadows in literature, written only as supporting devices to prop up the journeys of the male characters. This is not the case in this much-needed anthology. In Sarah Marian Seltzer’s “Ironing,” a story of first pre-pubescent love, the female gaze and female sexual desire are centered. Here, a schoolgirl's first crush—and her ensuing desire to change herself into the kind of girl her crush would like—deepens into a commentary on both beauty and male predatory behavior. In "Bringing Down the Clouds” by Kathleen Alcalá, Estela, the gatekeeper of a home for female survivors of domestic violence and their children, is drawn into a secret society of women who seek greater rights. And in Kim Chinquee’s “Physics,” a single mom working on her thesis tries to face the truth about a boyfriend who is no good. One of the most compelling tales is Alison Newall’s “Heart Like a Drum,” in which a staid PTA mom slowly transitions into a leopard and flees suburbia for the wild. The stories here run the gamut of romantic love, female friendship, familial relationships, and workplace politics. But throughout each is the common denominator of an active female character who embarks on her own hero’s journey. Structured in five parts (Resistance, Solidarity, Entanglements, Mother Figures, and Transformations), this anthology hearkens back to the groundbreaking collections of women’s writing published in the 1980s and '90s in a glorious homage. The editor is to be lauded for the effort at diversity that showcases women from a multiplicity of identities.

With prose that ranges from the humorous to the lyric and forms that range from the real to the magical, here is a vital addition to contemporary literature.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9913555-5-6

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Shade Mountain Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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