THE MISSING ROSE

A young heiress, carrying out her mother’s deathbed wish, searches for her twin sister.

Özkan’s heroine, Diana, scion of a wealthy Rio de Janiero family of hoteliers, was named after the Roman goddess of the hunt. Twenty-four years ago, her beloved mother tells her, Diana’s father left, taking with him Diana’s twin, Mary, who was named after the Virgin. Before she dies, Diana’s mother instructs her to find Mary and gives her four envelopes containing letters from her sister. Diana does not really wish to embark on this quest. Her life has become a round of drinking with shallow friends, who fawn over her and call her Goddess. Bored with the gifts and accolades she receives every day, Diana goes walking in a seaside park, where a mischievous old beggar hints that Mary is actually very close to her. An artist, Mathias, captures her attention, and he thinks Diana is his soul mate. He can only be sure if he leaves Rio after their coffee date. (This is one of many pseudo-mystical koans seeded throughout.) When Mary’s letters reveal that, like St. Exupery’s Little Prince, she left her comfortable surroundings to take “responsibility for a rose,” Diana resolves to alter her own life. She’s off to Istanbul where Zeynep Hanim, a wise woman who inhabits a mysterious garden, promises to teach her, just as she had taught Mary before her, how to listen to roses. After Zeynep imparts contradictory advice, e.g., always be on time, but don’t hesitate to knock after midnight, Diana is ready for enlightenment. Soon, she’s listening raptly as two roses named Artemis (Greek counterpart of Diana) and Miriam debate the true meaning of holiness. But not until she returns to Rio will Diana solve the puzzle of Mary’s whereabouts. The message—that definition by others is no match for self-realization—is obvious. However, in failing to depict the depths of Diana’s pre-enlightened existence, Özkan minimizes the stakes that any novel of redemption requires.

A formulaic allegory.

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-16230-5

Page Count: 242

Publisher: TarcherPerigee

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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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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