Forced events and a lackluster cast undermine an otherwise entertaining first novel.

WALTER FALLS

Sins of the father visit the son in paranoia, hubris, violence and corruption.

Walter Brimm, a deceitful investment executive, is convinced that his wife Gee, a sociology prof, is having an affair with ur-liberal Tod Marcum, publisher of Kerrytown Review, owner of a bohemian café, and wearer of leather moccasins. Gee, Walter feels, has been neglecting her duties of sex and childcare. Since she’s constantly working overtime with Tod on the latest social injustice, Walter daydreams about sloppy trysts and wives “placing more than a Chekhovian kiss upon the quivering sex” of other people’s husbands. He stews over news stories about scandal in love and business (to him inseparable) and reminisces over his own father’s imprisonment for fraud. Nostalgia works as a temporary buffer against immorality, though before long, his paranoia corrupts his judgement and he begins stealing Tod’s surefire ideas for real estate bids and marketing flexible watchbands. Walter confides in former client Jack Gorne, a tawdry, one-dimensional Execu-playa. After several Faustian deals, Walter ends up with a misappropriation of funds charge while attempting to bankrupt Tod. After losing it all, crashing a benefit and ending up in a hospital, he’s befriended by painter Myrian and her handicapped lover, Janus. Events fall into order too neatly as, it turns out, Walter’s new friends are also friends with Tod. In their presence, Walter grows determined to make reparations for his past sins but soon learns Tod and Gee have shacked up. Enter the paranoid’s timeless dilemma: Do ends justify means? Sequences and characters move in and out of believability as we learn of Janus’s own fraudulent past, for which a claims adjuster blackmails him in order to photograph Myrian nude. We’re treated to strained parallels between the present novel and masterworks, while the sheer volume of exclamations feels bizarrely Russian and the ending is rushed to an offstage gunfight, an innocent plea, and twin confessions.

Forced events and a lackluster cast undermine an otherwise entertaining first novel.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-9724295-0-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Brook Street Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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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