An engrossing, relatable tale about letting go.

CHASING THE LAST WHALE

The second book in Wictor’s (Ghosts and Ballyhoo, 2013, etc.) Ghosts trilogy tells the darkly humorous tale of an unusual friendship between a quadriplegic and a depressed copywriter.

In the second book in a uniquely ambitious trilogy composed of a memoir, a novel and a diary, Wictor expands on characters from the memoir to craft a story of both barely repressed anger and uncommon love. Narrated by Elliot Finell, a 36-year-old marketing copywriter, the book begins with his first conversation with Trey Gillespie, a man who fell off of a stool 22 years ago and lost the use of his arms and legs, with sensations in his limbs replaced by constant pain. Trey, it seems, has the ability to get people to open up. Even the very private Elliot discovers he can’t help but tell Trey all sorts of private things. Following that first meeting, Elliot confronts his girlfriend, Gary Pruett (yes, like a guy’s name), starting an argument that rattles his relationship and causes him to have a heart attack. As the story progresses, readers follow Elliot during this difficult point in his life, learning that he’s had a poor relationship with his family since he was a child and that his siblings teased him for being fat. He’s struggling to deal with losing the only woman he’d ever loved, whom he cared enough about to argue with her over something she refused to deal with. Elliot also deepens his relationship with Trey, whose ominous warning at their first meeting—“I had enough of this shit”—steadily proves to be more than mere words as the bitter man in the wheelchair asks an unthinkable favor of his new friend. Throughout, it’s a surprising, difficult yet intensely honest story filled with compelling characters; the way personal details are exposed through voices and actions—perhaps thanks to Wictor’s memoir-writing experience—may make readers wonder if these are real people he’s writing about. Although frequently dramatic, the story is, like life, peppered with a healthy dose of humor, sometimes even in the most trying situations, making the story seem all the more real and its impact all the more heart-wrenching.

An engrossing, relatable tale about letting go.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2013

ISBN: 978-0615819143

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Thomas Wictor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2013

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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