SECOND NATURE

There's always been a kind of primal undercurrent in Hoffman's love stories—a pulse of feeling as mysterious and inevitable as the moon-besotted turtles who clamber out of the sea to lay their eggs once a year. In her tenth novel, a latter-day Beauty and the Beast, this pulse is as powerful as a drumbeat—it draws you in and frightens you at the same time. Stephen is not your everyday beast. He's an attractive and intelligent man who happens to have been a feral child, raised by wolves and then returned, unwillingly, to civilization. When Robin Moore chances upon him in a hospital corridor, it's as if she's fallen under a spell. She could never explain it, she just has to rescue him, spiriting him back to the house she shares with her teenaged son in a small island community near N.Y.C. But it's difficult to keep secrets in a small community. Robin and Stephen quickly find themselves the objects of rumor and scrutiny from nosy neighbors, from Robin's estranged husband, Roy, who's a member of the police force, from just about anybody who has a window to spy out of. Tensions mount and, when tragedy strikes on the island, its aftermath comes as no surprise. Hoffman's foreshadowing is laid on a little thick here, but, by the close, events don't seem so much predictable as predestined in the way of a myth or a good fairy tale, made just spooky enough by that steady, distant drumbeat. Once again, Hoffman (Turtle Moon, 1992, etc.) stirs up the unlikely with the ordinary and seasons it, expertly, deliciously, with our darkest desires—her fans should wolf it down. (Literary Guild Dual Selection for May)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 1994

ISBN: 0-399-13908-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1993

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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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