An enjoyable, if slightly preachy, story of a trip to the Arctic.

QUIET FREEDOM

Debut novelist Peace tells the story of a woman who travels to Greenland to find a polar bear in the wild.

Reeling from the sudden death of her best friend, Amanda has trouble finding meaning in the Seattle-based marketing job to which she’s dedicated her life. She hopes to be awed by the polar bear exhibit at the local zoo, but even this is disappointing: “A feeling of sadness came over Amanda. She wondered if anyone realized how manufactured the zoo was.” A conversation with a similarly zoo-skeptical traveler convinces Amanda that she’ll need to go out into nature and seek out awesome experiences firsthand. She decides to put the rest of her life on hold and embark on a journey to northern Greenland in order to attain her new life goal: to see a polar bear in its natural surroundings. The journey ends up being a bit more than she bargained for, as she deals with the physical dangers of the high Arctic as well as psychologically defeating realizations about the Earth’s rapidly changing climate. Laying eyes on one of the world’s most endangered beasts may not change the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, but will it be enough to introduce Amanda to her core self? Peace writes in a simple yet elegant prose style, frequently mixing in facts and figures to keep the reader abreast of the situation’s real-life stakes: “A single polar bear’s natural territory can be hundreds of square miles….A typical zoo enclosure for a polar bear can be up to eighty million times smaller than a wild bear’s home range.” But these didactic flourishes, along with the meticulous documentation of Amanda’s journey (the novel is nearly 500 pages long), sometimes make the work read more like a travel memoir than a fictional account. The motivations for the trip also feel a bit contrived. But Amanda’s quest is compelling nevertheless: an adventure at the top of the world that feels relevant to the life of every reader—and to the planet as a whole.

An enjoyable, if slightly preachy, story of a trip to the Arctic.

Pub Date: March 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9962705-0-2

Page Count: 498

Publisher: Norlight Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2018

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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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