Some moving material about love and loss, swamped by authorial excess.

THE THIRD ANGEL

A ghost in a down-at-the-heels London hotel ties together three tragic romances in Hoffman’s latest (Skylight Confessions, 2007, etc.).

Though all three episodes are strongly conceived with complex characters, the connecting material includes carelessly repetitive plot devices (warring sisters, cancer-stricken mothers), highly improbable links among the major figures and a seriously overused blue heron. The “third angel” metaphor is also heavy-handed, but at least has a tangible connection to the plot. In addition to the Angel of Life and the Angel of Death, Dr. Lewis tells his daughter Frieda, there’s a Third Angel, “who walked among us, who sometimes lay sick in bed, begging for human compassion.” Frieda passes along this insight to Allie, who marries Frieda’s dying son Paul during the summer of 1999 in the novel’s first section. Though Allie’s furiously jealous younger sister Maddy does everything she can to destroy the wedding—including sleeping with Paul, who’s trying to convince his fiancée that he doesn’t deserve her—nothing can kill the love that blossoms in Allie as Paul’s illness grows mortal. Section two moves back to 1966, when 19-year-old Frieda has fled her father’s plans for her to become a doctor and gone to work as a maid at the Lion Park Hotel. Frieda falls in love with Jamie, the junkie rock star in Room 708, and writes him two songs: “The Third Angel” and “The Ghost of Michael Macklin.” The latter is about the specter introduced in the book’s opening pages, when Maddy hears shouting in Room 707 and learns that something terrible happened there in 1952. In fact, it was Maddy and Allie’s mother, then 12 years old, who witnessed the incident that created the ghost, an outgrowth of yet another doomed wedding. The particulars are recounted in the closing section, which features another cluster of full-bodied characters. By now, however, the piling up of disasters and coincidences has become ridiculous.

Some moving material about love and loss, swamped by authorial excess.

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-307-39385-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Shaye Areheart/Harmony

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2008

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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