Despite a few weak spots, an enticing first book that reveals plenty of potential.

WAR WITH PIGEONS

A young, successful lawyer living in New York City discovers that his closest friend harbored secrets built on shame and love.

Peter and Simon became friends in grade school when they discovered themselves to be not just the only Asian students but also part of a very small crowd of non-Jewish children. Over the years they shared triumphs and setbacks, providing emotional and financial support to each other as needed. Peter never expected to be acting as executor of his friend’s estate, but when Simon dies from self-inflicted stab wounds, Peter is left to work out the details of the will and recover from the shock and grief as best he can. Part of the shock comes from meeting Simon’s girlfriend Catherine and their daughter Joanna for the first time at the funeral. A successful businessman, Simon left behind a journal detailing the pivotal moments of his life (graduation, falling in love, depression) and through reading it, Peter gains further understanding of his friend, much of which Peter was protected from. He also gains a clearer view of the malicious intrigues surrounding the Chaebol, an elite group of powerful South Korean immigrants who may have played a hand in Simon’s death. Kim nicely handles intricate, recurring themes and images, such as that of the pigeon Simon saved from his mother’s balcony. The author is also talented at portraying a rough side of the city—room salons where men can purchase the attentions of beautiful women—with respect and compassion. Kim’s characters are precisely written yet maintain enough of a spark of vitality to keep readers caring and concerned. The story occasionally slows to a sluggish pace, specifically during the 40-plus pages of journal extraction, and a few of the plot twists seem based more on narrative convenience than natural development. Flashbacks and tangents sometimes overpower the quieter thrust of the contemporary mystery.

Despite a few weak spots, an enticing first book that reveals plenty of potential.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0984435937

Page Count: 394

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2010

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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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