Edgar’s own story in the present is more compelling than the revelations of the key’s past, and the novel might have been...

DUMA KEY

The prolific master of psycho-horror returns to the mysteries of the creative process, a subject that has inspired some of his most haunting work.

This could be considered a companion piece to The Shining, offering plenty of reversals on that plot. In both cases, isolation has severe effects on the psyche of an artist, yet where the former novel found its protagonist in a lethal state of writer’s block, the latter sees a one-time building magnate transformed into an impossibly prolific and powerful painter, due to circumstances beyond his control. And where the isolation in the former had a family cut off from society by a frigid northern winter, the setting of the latter is a mysterious Florida key, lush and tropical in its overgrowth, somehow immune to commercial development. A self-made millionaire, Edgar Freemantle narrates the novel in a conversational, matter-of-fact tone. He explains how a job-site accident cost him his arm, his sanity (during the early part of an extended recuperation) and his wife (whom he had physically threatened after the accident transformed him into something other than himself). What he gained was a seemingly inexplicable command as a visual artist, particularly after his recuperation (from both his accident and his marriage) takes him to the isolated Duma Key, where the only other inhabitants are an elderly, wealthy woman and her caretaker. It seems that all three have suffered severe traumas that bond them and that perhaps have even drawn them together. Soon Edgar discovers that his art has given him the power not only to predict the future, but to transform it. He ultimately pays a steep price for his artistic gifts, particularly as his investigation of the mysteries of Duma Key lead him to discover the tragic origins of his artistic vision.

Edgar’s own story in the present is more compelling than the revelations of the key’s past, and the novel might have been twice as powerful if it had been cut by a third, but King fans will find it engrossing.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4165-5251-2

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2007

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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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