INSOMNIA

A small town in Maine again serves as King's (Nightmares and Dreamscapes, 1993, etc.) setting in this deft, steady tale, in which two lovable geezers travel through hyper-reality to balance the books of human existence, or something to that effect. Since his wife's recent death, Ralph Roberts, age 70, has been beset by insomnia and hallucinations. These hallucinations appear as auras, terminating in fine lines of light resembling balloon strings. In these strings, Ralph believes he can see other people's states of mind and being (e.g., disease, anger, calm). Ah, but 68-year-old gal pal Lois Chasse shares these visions, which by now include three little bald entities in doctors' smocks. These three, naturally, are not really of this earth. They are brokers for what we mortals call death. The first two, whom Ralph and Lois name Clotho and Lachesis — from a Greek myth about three yam-spinning sisters — are benevolent and serve "The Purpose," or natural, timely demise. The third, a malevolent sprite named Atropos, represents "The Random" and takes great pleasure in prematurely cutting folks' balloon strings with his rusty scalpel. Atropos takes advantage of a pro-life rally currently polarizing the hamlet and enlists a local crazy to help him make a literal killing in the afterlife futures market. In the climax, our oldsters serve as earthly agents to thwart a potentially calamitous disruption in the order of the universe. King throws in a tender romance, sensitive and often funny portrayals of the ravages of age, and the somewhat loopy presence of Rite-Aid drugstores, Cup-A-Soup, and Port-O-Sans smack-dab in the middle of hyper-reality. This commingling of the supernatural and the commonplace is what makes this hefty read so enjoyable. Still, at 800 pages, it ain't no coffee-table book — it's a coffee table.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 1994

ISBN: 0-670-85503-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994

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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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