A promising debut by an author with an amusing approach to life.


Business at his pizza place is slow and his aging parents need money, leading Knox Thompson to deal drugs—a vocation that quickly turns perilous.

The permanently disheveled, 40-year-old Thompson, who lives in his hometown of Richmond, Kentucky, stumbles into dealing. After winning big at a backroom poker game in a shady nearby town, he is forced into forking over his winnings by one of the players, a nasty drug supplier named Burl, in exchange for a pound of marijuana. If Knox refuses to comply, he won't make it to his car in one piece. Not knowing what else to do with the weed, in which he has invested all his money, Knox starts selling it. It's only a matter of time before he's buying another pound from Burl, making dumb decisions, and getting in way over his head. Burl's sadistic enforcer, Greek, starts paying him unpleasant visits. And Knox's hard-edged new girlfriend, Darla, a tattoo artist with whom he watches old videotapes of My So-Called Life, leaves town. Though the book suffers from an overreliance on sadistic violence and a too-tidy ending, this is a top-notch debut with a winning narrative voice and unexpectedly multidimensional characters. Even as he's making Knox's life miserable, Burl develops an affection for him. "I never seen anything like you," he says to the pizza man. "You're smart, you just ain't no good at thinking."

A promising debut by an author with an amusing approach to life.

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949199-28-4

Page Count: 264

Publisher: West Virginia Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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