UGLY WAYS

Three black sisters reunite in their Georgia hometown to embrace, scream, smoke, contemplate suicide, and swap clothes while preparing for their mother's funeral—in a rambling follow-up to Ansa's Baby of the Family (1989). Esther Lovejoy has died at last, and her three daughters- -Betty, the ultra-reliable owner of a pair of beauty salons; Emily, the lonely, unstable researcher who longs for love; and Annie Ruth, the pretty youngest whose job as an L.A. TV anchorwoman is driving her nuts—rush home to begin rehashing their traumatic childhood memories in the hope of laying them to rest. Ruled with an iron hand by Esther, who insisted they call her ``Mudear'' (baby talk for ``my dear''), the three Lovejoy girls learned the hard way to hold their heads high, work hard, and, whatever happened, never to trust a man—even while Mudear herself spent her days as a voluntary shut-in, watching TV, taking naps, and wearing negligees while her husband worked in the chalk mines to support her. Tormented by a mother whose belief that ``she was above the laws of God and man,'' to say nothing of her habit of gardening only by moonlight, caused tongues to wag all over town, the Lovejoy girls nevertheless grew up to forge successful, independent lives while their father faded into the background, muttering about ``womens taking over [his] house.'' As each daughter (and, occasionally, the shrill, judgmental ghost of Mudear herself) recollects those long- gone years, the source of Mudear's familial power is revealed, the daughters' lifelong resentments aired, and the father's suffering at last relieved, resulting in a happy funeral for one and all. A tale of dysfunction that opens with a bang—but repetitive, episodic, and, in the end, less illuminating than it might have been.

Pub Date: July 26, 1993

ISBN: 0-15-192553-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1993

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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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