ROSE MADDER

King's 30th novel (Insomnia, 1994, etc.) gets off to a careful, grand start but quickly turns to a half-pound of story to five pounds of stuffing, or tedium triumphant. Still, this one may find King hitting the ball not just out of the park but around the globe. After 14 years of marriage to biter and wife-beater Detective Norman Daniels, Rose McLendon Daniels steals her husband's ATM card and runs off to another city. But Daniels's job is finding people, and as a biter he's even more bent than the wife-beating police-chief in Nelson DeMille's Spencerville; like his, Daniels's verbal rage allows no range to monolithic villainy. In a far-away hockshop, Rose trades her engagement ring for a mystery-ridden painting of a woman in a crimson (rose-madder) chiton with her back to the viewer (one thinks of Wyeth's Christina's World), which she hangs in a new apartment found for her by the Daughters and Sisters, a battered women's group. She also falls for softspoken Bill Steiner, the shop's young pawn-dealer, who courts her on his motorcycle and opens her to new worlds. Rose also finds new worlds as a Liz Taylor-sound-alike reader for audiobooks, and in her painting, which magically allows her to enter its dense detail. We follow Daniels's course as he unearths clue after clue and bites several straw figures to death in warm-ups for his first big bite out of Rose. When it comes, Rose discovers that an armlet worn by the figure of Rose Madder in the painting has given her left arm the strength of Wonder Woman. Even so, she and Bill race through moonlight into the painting, while Daniels, as enraged as a bull, chases after them.... Magic against wife-beating — sounds attractive? But as events thin out, what's left are pages and pages of dull, falsely pitched lowbrow dialogue, abuse, biting, symbolic fantasy, and feminist tub-thumping. Overwhelmingly uninventive — and if Liz Taylor does the audiobook, believe in miracles.

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-670-85869-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1995

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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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