GREAT APES

Entering a Self fantasy (Grey Area, 1996, etc.) demands both a strong stomach and a readiness to experience narrative pyrotechnics, but in this second novel (after My Idea of Fun, 1994), in which an artist wakes up after a bender to discover that his entire world is now run by chimpanzees, these demands are amply rewarded. Not only is the world run by chimpanzees, but the painter Simon Dykes finds that his girlfriend has turned into a chimp. And that's not all: The increasingly frenzied painter notices that he's becoming a bit hairy as well. The ultimate mind-bender arrives with the emergency psychiatric team: There's not a human being among them. Simon goes comatose and is hauled off to the psycho ward. Enter Dr. Zack Busner, controversial but respected chimpanzee analyst, whose method includes taking his most flamboyant cases on talk shows. Busner has never seen a case like Simon's before, and he marvels at the consistency of the artist's human delusions when his charge recovers sufficiently to communicate. After all, he tells Simon, he is a chimpanzee. Whence came this odd idea that he's a human? (Humans are a sad, grubby species, condescended to by the articulate, successful chimp world.) He takes Simon into his home, a normal chimp domicile full of sub-adults, mating frenzies, and group grooming sessions, there to work intensely with his patient—and, by degrees, Simon does begin to adjust to his new reality. He still has human memories, however, and Busner, in an attempt to get to the bottom of Simon's obsession, sets out with him in tow to the missing link in the puzzle—a search leading to the heart of Africa and one of the world's few remaining populations of wild humans. Vividly imagined, extraordinarily credible, provocative and entertaining in equal measure—and the detailing of chimp/human behavior allows Self's libidinous, ferociously satirical, scatological zeal to flourish. HoooGraa! (First printing of 30,000; $50,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8021-1617-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1997

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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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