A first-rate novel about the horrors of nationalism, as moving as it is instructive in its historical import.

LITTLE BASTARDS IN SPRINGTIME

A boy survives the 1992 siege of Sarajevo and finds refuge, if not peace, in North America.

Jevrem Andric is 11 when his family endures four years of “the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern war.” Depicting their suffering through Jevrem’s eyes, Rudolph uses remarkable historical research to craft a deeply affecting psychological portrayal of the cost of war upon one boy, his family and the society they are later thrown into. His mother is Croatian, a pianist; his father is Serb, an activist and journalist. In short time the family goes from protesting in the street and playing concerts to starving in a basement without medicine. Jevrem witnesses rape and sees his friends killed. Half his family, which includes his war-hero Communist grandmother, an older brother, and two younger sisters, dies in the war, a fight among “Muslim paramilitaries, Croatian paramilitaries, the JNA, Serbian police, and irregulars.” The dead haunt Jevrem after his escape to Canada, where he gets high and robs people in Toronto with fellow refugees who dub themselves “the Bastards of Yugoslavia” because “it’s what the nationalists who took over our country” called children of mixed parentage. Rudolph deeply inhabits Jevrem, a highly intelligent teen with PTSD, modulating the prose subtly as the boy ages, showing great restraint as a stylist in order to let the effects of war drive each scene. After a brutal stint in juvenile detention, Jevrem finds himself once again in an idealistic family placing hope in revolution, ending a story sure to make readers tremble at the cost of war paid by children “scattered across the world, figuring things out, finding stuff to do, forgetting and remembering, trying to get by.”

A first-rate novel about the horrors of nationalism, as moving as it is instructive in its historical import.

Pub Date: April 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-58642-233-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Steerforth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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