Of interest to fans who have followed the story through the first two books, but a bumpy ride without that background.

THE CITY OF MIRRORS

From the Passage Trilogy series , Vol. 3

What are you going to do after vanquishing the virals? Why, properly inoculated, refound civilization, of course.

Marilynne Robinson isn’t the only writer to situate a woman named Lila in the green groves of Iowa. Nope: Cronin (The Twelve, 2012, etc.) does so too, his Lila a warden to damaged young Kate, whose biblically named mom, Sara, has been shunted off into captivity by the Redeyes, unpleasant people made that way by genetic tinkering via the virals—they being, readers of Cronin’s predecessor volumes will recall, supersoldiers gone awry thanks to inevitable screw-ups on the parts of the mad scientists at Monsanto, or wherever mad scientists find work in these fraught times. Leave it to Amy, Alicia of Blades, Peter the martyred rock on which the future is founded (“Blood was dripping from his hair, flowing down the creases of his face”), and all the other good guys to hack and slash their ways across the landscape to the promised land of Ottumwa, or wherever it is that good guys make their ways to in the very bad near future. Cronin writes with intelligence and verve, and he serves up a good imitation of Sergio Leone: “Of Amy, the Girl from Nowhere,” he writes in a denouement, “there is no mention. Perhaps we shall never learn who she was, if she existed at all.” That there’s anyone to worry about literary archaeology 1,000 years after events means that humankind survived, so yea, but only after much gore and heroic talk befitting an apocalyptic yarn. Some of the story seems castoff Walter Miller, whose Canticle for Leibowitz imagines religious belief of the future as a reflection of oddball events in the distant past—our own time, that is. And overall, there’s a kind of slow-hissing-of-air-out-of-a-balloon feel to the whole enterprise, as if this trilogy might have better been served up as a twin set.

Of interest to fans who have followed the story through the first two books, but a bumpy ride without that background.

Pub Date: May 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-345-50500-2

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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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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