A powerful expression of anguish from a 9/11 first responder.


A New York cop’s account of his 9/11-related health problems and struggle to have them recognized by the city’s bureaucracy.

After the tragedy on 9/11 at the World Trade Center, NYPD lieutenant Bill Dement spent four months amid the toxic dust and debris at Ground Zero and the Fresh Kills Landfill. Like other first responders, he has since developed a host of health problems: reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS), acid reflux, sleep apnea, heavy metals poisoning and permanent cognitive damage. When Dement asked a doctor in 2008 if he could still be a cop, the doctor told him, “You can’t be a clerk in Wal-Mart.” Co-authored with his wife, Dement’s first-hand account as a first-responder unveils a harrowing, lingering tragedy. The contaminated air around Ground Zero “felt like death. It was death.” Dement’s deteriorating health forced him into retirement and has left him a virtual invalid. In lucid detail, the book then describes his Kafka-esque journey through New York City bureaucracy and the medical establishment in search of a diagnosis, treatment and an adequate disability settlement for his injuries. “We have faced organized obstruction in our struggles for health care and compensation,” Dement says. He was diagnosed with “WTC cough” as early as January 2002, but a pulmonary specialist in 2005 said he did not have RADS. “Perhaps it’s in your mind,” the specialist said. A panel of city doctors repeatedly denied his request for a tax-free disability pension, ruling he was not eligible because his sleep apnea was not related to 9/11. At one hearing, Dement presents a letter from a doctor diagnosing him with lead and aluminum poisoning. “Do you have anything more?” a member of the panel asks. Dement's conversational, pull-no-punches prose style and vivid imagery add to the power of his bleak narrative. “[I]t seemed like someone had glued my pleural lining together,” he says of his breathing problems. Congress finally passed a bill in 2010 to help ailing first responders, although that’s little solace for Dement. His focused, understandable anger should be our own. It is as he laments: “I and thousands of first responders have been handed a death sentence.”

A powerful expression of anguish from a 9/11 first responder.

Pub Date: June 18, 2011

ISBN: 978-0615487564

Page Count: 276

Publisher: William Francis Dement

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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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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