THROAT SPROCKETS

In his first novel about the persuasive powers of film, Lucas (editor-in-chief of Video Watchdog) puts poetic bite into seemingly banal material about one man's sexual fetish: the exposed female throat. Lucas ponders rather heavily at one point on the way the throat connects base animal instincts with the loftier reaches of the mind—serious stuff considering that his first-person narrator is a staid advertising executive first seen taking his lunch break at the old Eros theater in Friendship, Ohio. Here, the cinematic offerings are such fare as ``Sperms of Endearment'' and ``Dirtysomething.'' The author dismisses these low-budget movies as ``Mad magazine for brain-dead grownups.'' Then, flickering across the screen, comes the obscure ``Throat Sprockets,'' isolating women's necks as erogenous zones, showing tiny holes ``leaking thin, gleaming rivulets of blood'' as advertised in the poster. Yet the participants never shed their clothes. The arty voyeur is hooked on subtlety. In short order, he tries a neck embrace on his academic wife, Paige, who eventually divorces him for his audacity. ``You didn't go after my boobs once tonight—you imposter!'' she accuses him. Our boy then begins his lonely quest for a willing new partner who shares his obsession. He encounters Emma, who makes ceramics shaped like necks and becomes a kind of alter ego: ``A stranger cuts through your life as a kindred shadow,'' muses Lucas about the new relationship. But this novel is about romantic virtual reality and the impact of films on the inner life. Lucas's characters are in the service of an aesthetic conceit that veers between Dracula and Fellini-like visions of wretched excess. It's not long before Emma is not only allowing Lucas to sip her neck's blood but is offering him her pulsating heart as well. Wittily perverse, with often mesmerizing language, this is a virtuoso performance that is, well, draining.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-385-31290-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Delta

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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