Difficult subjects portrayed for readers who want to be challenged as well as entertained.

Good Americans

THE HUMAN TRAGEDY, VOLUME 1

This “found” short story collection takes an unabashed look at life in America through a variety of unfortunate eyes.

Through his New Wei publishing company, Desai (The Brotherhood, 2012) presents this collection of six stories—one of which is a told in three-parts—as the first volume of the Human Tragedy series. In these tales, the collection covers a wide range of voices and topics: “Old Guido” tells of a prejudiced Italian immigrant and his accidental relationship with an underage Hispanic girl; the vignette “Bridget’s Brother” confronts loneliness and family ties; “The Apprentice” describes the Dominican-descended Javier, his Asian masseuse and his struggle up the academic ladder toward a tenured professorship; and “The Mountain” involves a philosophical conversation between two friends on a surprisingly dangerous hike. “Malta: a Love Story,” a 138-page odyssey in three parts, follows the eponymous character from one unfortunate turn of events to another, and the final story, “Dhan’s Debut,” follows an ambitious reporter in New York City as she ferrets out the truth behind a charismatic lawyer. While “Dhan’s Debut” is something of a letdown with its out-of-left-field ending, the other stories speak volumes about the human condition and modern life in America. Best of all, despite their difficult subjects, each one achieves that level of consideration without any sense of judgment or moralizing to cloud the experience; it’s left to readers to make up their own minds about what they just witnessed. Though most of the stories have happy endings, they’re not happily-ever-afters. These endings are real: People die, peace is found or made, and lives are changed—or, sometimes, not. Just like our own lives. And therein lies the power of this first volume, which, while not as grandiose or revolutionary as the fictionalized introduction makes it out to be, is a solid collection of rare caliber.

Difficult subjects portrayed for readers who want to be challenged as well as entertained.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0988351936

Page Count: 370

Publisher: The New Wei LLC

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2013

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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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