A work that resists easy description; recommended for those looking for something strange and beautiful.

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CROWSONG FOR THE STRICKEN

Morrissey’s (Weeping with an Ancient God, 2014, etc.) novel in stories tells of the residents of a Midwestern town in the 1950s as they deal with a plague and personal issues.

The author states in an introduction that the 12 stories in this book may be read in any order, which will change how the reader views the overall narrative. Perhaps the story starts with the tale of Old Man Stevenson battling a crow, which he believes took his wife, Clara, away years ago. Or perhaps it starts with the disruption of the town’s Passion play by Rhonda Holcomb, whose dissatisfaction with her own marriage boils over after she puts a new resident, Mrs. Espejo, in charge of the production. Or it could begin with the very first story, which introduces the O’Brien family, who begin showing symptoms of a plague. When this happens, the town custom is to quarantine the home and carefully deliver supplies to the family; when there are no longer any signs of life, the house is burned down. Depending on where the reader starts, they may see a different character as the primary protagonist. But although the narrative is malleable, the vignettes all feature people weighed down by foreboding; there’s always a sense that something is coming for his characters, although Morrissey never defines it clearly. Indeed, they never seem to be able to truly define their own unease—even as the author makes readers feel it, too. References place the book in the mid-’50s, and the author describes the small, unnamed town in loving detail, but there’s also a feeling of detachment, as if all of this is happening in a place apart from our own. It also hints at the supernatural, especially when different characters encounter people in crowlike outfits, but it never presents events that couldn’t be ascribed to the natural world

A work that resists easy description; recommended for those looking for something strange and beautiful.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9987057-2-9

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Twelve Winters Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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