Tin House has quickly become one of the country’s most noticed literary magazines—and herewith some of its contributors.

Colorful, lively, loud, and often sexy stories rule the day: Mary Gaitskill’s offering—from which the collection draws its title—describes the shock of a sudden pregnancy as a woman is surprised to find herself on a hormonal odyssey through pop culture and Cartesian thought in search of some form of truth and desire. A woman is willed a man’s skull in Chris Offutt’s “Inside Out,” a pretense for the character to explore the trade of the dead with a mortician, an encounter bound to turn intimate as “Death produces an irrational need for tidiness and a surprising amount of spontaneous sex.” Stuart Dybek explores the relationship between narrative and physical intimacy in a short-short, “Fiction;” Lisa Zeidner writes of a man (“Chosen People”) who picks up women at the Holocaust museum by focusing on architecture instead of atrocity; Amy Hempel contributes another memorable short piece, “Beach Town,” about a woman who finds a voyeuristic thrill in what she can see of her neighbors through the privet; and what starts as a fascination with a woman’s earlobe in Yasunari Kawabata’s “Her Husband Didn’t” grows through the course of an affair to a poignant lesson on the subtle trapdoors of love. Fred Leebron’s odd second-person-plural account of lives adjacent to celebrity (“We Are Not Friends”) comes straight out of a Nicole Kidman headline. Other notable contributors include Tom Barbash, David Foster Wallace, Ron Carlson, and Dorothy Allison. Tin House has certainly made a name for itself by sticking to the basic tenet that you-know-what sells, one result being that some will find the variety of these stories not so varied. But there are plenty of strategies to choose from even if the subject stays the same, and not a few strong authors make an appearance.

Sexy and worthwhile.

Pub Date: April 3, 2003

ISBN: 1-58234-334-9

Page Count: 386

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2003

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


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.


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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