An emotionally challenging but rewarding war novel.

The Josan and the Jee

A fictional memoir, based on true events of love and horror during the Korean War.

Drawing upon his own experience as a soldier stationed in Korea in 1953, Thomas (The Genteel Poor, 2014, etc.) paints a ghastly picture of the ravages of war. The story begins with Sook Cha, a 12-year-old girl, witnessing the murder of her father and rape of her best friend at the hands of ruthless North Korean soldiers. Now alone in the world, she heads south in search of the means to survive. The world she inhabits is a perilous one, and even her fellow countrymen prove opportunistic and brutal. The threat of rape is omnipresent; she attempts to disguise herself as a boy, hoping it will deter potential attackers. She joins forces with an older woman traveling with a young girl and her child, and the four form a kind of impromptu family, eventually establishing a brothel in a notoriously tough neighborhood. Meanwhile, in a parallel narrative, Max, an American soldier stationed in Korea, wrestles with his own disillusionment and estrangement from his wife. He finds himself in a brothel and is introduced to a young, beautiful prostitute—Sook Cha. Immediately attracted to each other, the two take solace from the darkness that surrounds them. They fall deeply in love, but everything seems to conspire against their union. Even Max’s vindictive lieutenant attempts to draw them apart. Max desperately tries to make it work, investigating all of the ways he could manage to take Sook Cha with him back to the United States. While this is an achingly sorrowful tale filled with gritty depictions of human degradation and fear, it doesn’t gratuitously batter the reader with hopelessness. In fact, through all the austerity, glimmers of real love shine through. The author’s experience in Korea shines through as well, particularly in his historically astute depiction of the country and era. He aptly conveys the heights and depths of human capability.  

An emotionally challenging but rewarding war novel.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62768-001-1

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Media Maestro Book Division

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2015

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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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