SHADOW SONG

Long-separated lovers reunite in a quiet Catskill Mountains resort town, but precious pretty prose and you-had-to-be-there nostalgia fail to set readers' hearts aflutter. Kay (To Dance with the White Dog, 1990) takes as his protagonist Bobo Murphy, an artist in his 50s who has spent all his life in the South—except for one memorable summer in 1955 when, as a recent high school graduate, he waited tables at the Pine Hill Inn in the Catskills' Shandaken Valley. For nearly five decades, Bobo has clung to his memories of that idyllic summer—the one time, he feels, when he was truly happy and alive. When he learns of the death of Avrum Feldman, Pine Hill's oldest eccentric and his close friend, Bobo grabs the chance to return to Pine Hill and have another look around. He is saddened to find that the old resort hotel and village, whose cultured German-Jewish visitors and clever, wisecracking employees had once seemed as exotic to this Georgia farmboy as Timbuktu, are now a seedy backwater, as barren and dull as his own life. Explorations of the town bring to mind Bobo's first encounters with old Avrum, whose romantic obsession with a famous opera singer inspired the 17-year-old Bobo to woo and almost win a beautiful young Jewish woman named Amy Lourie at the hotel. As he relives that passion, which ended when he returned south to marry a girl back home, Bobo is overwhelmed by regret. Luckily, Amy has also heard of Avrum's death. She appears, ready and willing to give Bobo a second chance at joy. Kay has a gift for evoking beauty in the mundane, but it's still hard to fall for a romantic hero named Bobo. (Literary Guild selection; film rights to Warner Bros.; author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-671-89261-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1994

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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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