MOIRA'S WAY

A promising premise—tracking a bright girl's rebellion against her pinched, alcoholic South Dakota family—degenerates into a long set-piece populated by stereotypes and suffused with tacky adolescent sex. At first it appears that Moira McPherson—in her early teens, intellectually gifted, big-breasted, and reeking of sex—will never grow up. That's because throughout the novel's first 225 pages the author finds it necessary to catalogue every sexual thought, look, and encounter that Moira undergoes. And they are plentiful: From her ne'er-do-well drunken father's evident lust for Moira to her adulterous mother's nasty cracks about Moira's breasts, which kids and adults alike are always staring at, to a series of river's-edge encounters with greasy high-school boys and sadistic teachers, Moira is usually thinking about or having secret sex. This is her one release from a grim, emotionally crippled, occasionally violent family life that includes a younger ``good'' sister named Taryn, who blames Moira for everything that's wrong with their family. Then, at 16, Moira comes home from her first real ``date'' (no sex) and her father, drunk, aims a rifle at the boy she's with but shoots and kills himself instead. For the final 150 pages, Moira, oddly unaffected by her father's suicide, rapidly experiences the 60's at Columbia, the 70's in med school and Vista, and the 80's in a Chicago penthouse happily married to her college sweetheart, a rich Jewish political activist named Zeke. Meanwhile, back in South Dakota, Taryn undergoes a series of nervous breakdowns, and Moira's mother prospers in a pinched, unpleasant way, glad to be rid of both her drunken husband and her annoyingly sexy daughter Moira. Second-novelist Saiter (Cheerleaders Can't Afford to Be Nice, 1990) offers some vivid, compelling insights into life as the scapegoated child of an alcoholic family. Beyond that, much steamy bathos and nobody much to like. (First printing of 40,000)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1993

ISBN: 1-55611-372-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Donald Fine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1993

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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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