A grand work of fiction, epic in scope and intimate in detail.

THE KING OF KINGS COUNTY

Terrell (The Huntsman, 2001) returns with a powerful story about the birth of the suburbs and the death of the American dream.

Jack Acheson is a quietly observant kid, and if he’s wise beyond his years, it’s because he’s blessed—or cursed—with a father who refuses to treat him like a child. Privy to the outsized dreams and underhanded dealings of Alton Acheson, Jack becomes his father’s chronicler. His story begins with the birth of the Interstate Highway in the 1950s, and it spans the last decades of the 20th century. A student of Gilded Age titans, Alton has special regard for Thomas Durant, the man who built the Transcontinental Railroad and—more importantly—purchased the land aongside it. When he sees his own chance for greatness in the new highway, he forms an alliance with revered Kansas City developer Prudential Bowen to buy Kings County farmland on the cheap and turn it into luxury housing and shopping centers for the new American commuter. Alton is a confidence man par excellence—a brilliant huckster and an individual with absolute faith in himself. A big man with long, blond hair and a fondness for pastel suits, Alton is a blithely conspicuous loudmouth and a constant source of mortification for his adolescent son. He’s also a spectacularly appealing character, able to turn nearly everyone around him—his son, his wife, his friends—into willing (if occasionally uneasy) accomplices. A clear-eyed visionary, Alton not only anticipates school desegregation and white flight, he depends on it. The fatal flaw in his scheme is not his amoral calculation, but his miscalculation: By the time bussing comes to Kansas City, Alton’s already been forced to trade his rich suburban acres for tenement buildings in a dying metropolis. An honest and unsentimental post mortem for America’s cities, this is also a moving and original coming-of-age story.

A grand work of fiction, epic in scope and intimate in detail.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2005

ISBN: 0-670-03425-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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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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