A gorgeously written collection of strong stories that blend Mexican and European folklore with the realities of...

SANTANA'S FAIRY TALES

A bilingual collection of fairy tale–inspired stories of life in a contemporary West Coast barrio.

In this debut story collection, García blends Mexican folklore and the tradition of the folk tales of the Brothers Grimm to present stories featuring Mexican, Chicano, and white characters in Santa Ana, California. In “The Carousel’s Lullaby,” the city’s 19th-century founder, Billy Spurgeon, reappears as a ghost, still fighting for white supremacy, while “Zoraida and Marisol” is a tribute to a murdered transgender woman. Witches make an appearance in “Just a House,” and in “Hector and Graciela,” the story of Hansel and Gretel is transformed into a tale of children left behind when immigration officials seize their parents; they escape from an ogrelike Minuteman through their own cunning. García draws on themes of gentrification, assimilation, and xenophobia while deftly capturing the day-to-day life of an ordinary community, and she infuses it all with a sense of magic. The writing is full of vivid imagery, local geography, and detail that evokes the place where the author wrote these stories as an artist-in-residence: “Bystanders watched the flapping flag at the top and twinkling lights underneath from afar, savoring their mangos with chile and limón in la plaza, occasionally pressing their lips to relieve the sting they craved.” The Spanish translation, which makes up the book’s second half, is also well-done; the only shortcoming is that the evocative moments of Spanglish and natural shifts between languages (“I know I’m just a vieja to most gente, but I believe in what I believe in, and not you or any of those city officials are gonna tell me otherwise”) are less evident in the Spanish versions. The stories are all satisfying narratives on their own, but they effectively combine to produce an intimate work that’s universal in its scope.

A gorgeously written collection of strong stories that blend Mexican and European folklore with the realities of contemporary America.

Pub Date: March 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-86030-4

Page Count: 158

Publisher: Raspa Magazine

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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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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