HEADHUNTER

Joseph Conrad's Kurtz as a nightmare headshrinker? The analogy pays off if you stay with this Canadian thriller, but first you have to make it through an obstacle course of intolerably digressive subplots. Schizophrenic spiritualist Lilah Kemp, reading Heart of Darkness at the Metropolitan Toronto Library, sees Kurtz depart from page 92 and walk out; soon he's ensconced as the monstrous head of the Parkin Psychiatric Institute. As Lilah waits in anguish for a Marlow to emerge and do battle with him, Dr. Austin Purvis, a Parkin psychiatrist, wonders what's become of a mysterious patient who changed his name from Adam Smith to Smith Jones to X before disappearing. Meanwhile, Purvis' colleague Dr. Eleanor Farjeon struggles to make sense of a blight that's left eight young patients terror-stricken and mute; another patient, Warren Ellis, becomes the center of a plot to manipulate a research grant from the Beaumorris Corporation; photographer John Dai Bowen's Club of Men continues to recruit boys willing to submit to the members' gaze and Bowen's lens; and mystery man James Gatz moves into a neighborhood that is now home to a Boston psychiatrist named, yes, Dr. Charles Marlow. Death squads of exterminators battle starlings spreading the sinister plague of sturnusemia, and Amy Wylie, a poet obsessively opposed to the exterminations, is committed to Parkin. Kurtz turns out to have a hand in every one of these intrigues, but you may weary of a cast as large (but not as compelling) as any in a George Eliot novel before you find out how. Findley (The Telling of Lies, 1988, etc.) presents a punishingly ambitious portrait of the psychiatrist as contemporary antichrist, but neither Kurtz nor Marlow finally comes to life in his resurrection. You'll finish this recklessly overscaled novel, if you finish at all, with a profound sense of relief.

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-517-59827-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1994

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more