Chu’s stories are solidly realistic in their scope, exploring everyday issues with charm and empathy—and occasional moments...

LIKE A CHAMPION

The characters in Chu’s debut story collection grapple with quotidian struggles, employment mishaps, and unruly family dynamics.

Chu's stories are set in spaces one might write off as nondescript: generic office parks, stores in their final days of existence, fast-food restaurants, the hallways of cruise ships. At his best, Chu finds ways to turn the everyday into the revelatory. He’s especially good at tapping into the frustrations of working in corporate America circa now. In “Fred from Finance,” the title character is laid off from his job on his birthday, discovers some unpleasant truths about his former co-workers, and makes a few unlikely connections with people along the way. The narrator of “Rhubarb Pie” is forced to confront his own attitudes about his job of many years after one of his colleagues announces her intention to quit via a well-placed pie to the face of her boss. These are subtle, understated stories, by and large; in “Recent Conversations,” Chu explores the ambiguities of the dialogues that can emerge in the world of online dating, while in the title story, the proprietor of a toy store that’s soon to close attempts to determine if the object of his affection is also responsible for a recent theft. The collection juxtaposes the harmful impact that financial conditions and a shifting economic landscape can have on people, but Chu also leaves in space for his characters’ more personal foibles and flaws. He covers a host of relationships—familial, romantic, occupational—and, in doing so, showcases the complexities of the characters on display.

Chu’s stories are solidly realistic in their scope, exploring everyday issues with charm and empathy—and occasional moments of unexpected humor.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9984092-6-9

Page Count: 238

Publisher: 7.13 Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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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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