Are you wishing for a wry, sly book about the human comedy? Wish granted.



Outsized egos take a shellacking in nine crafty, contemporary tales about vanity and the titular “idiots” who succumb to it.

In each of the first five stories, a fairy appears, hovering just inches above the urban German turf where, in succession, five hapless narcissists—an ad executive determined to salvage his firm; a young film director frightened of his own brilliance; a mother jealous of her famous son; a hack writer disgusted by his commercial success; an alcoholic know-it-all desperate for recognition—bemoan their plights and are in turn offered the granting of one wish. Although the fairies vary from tale to tale (several are cranky, another is a newbie recently promoted from shooting-star service), they all stick to the rules: one wish only, no wishing for more than one wish, while wishes for immortality, health, money and love are verboten. It’s a thankless job. Each grantee quibbles with the rules (denied immortality, the director asks for at least 200 years), dismisses the fairies’ suggestions (insulted by the offer of a dishwasher, the mother says she ran a left-wing record store for 28 years and washed dishes by hand all her life), misunderstands what the fairies are offering (the alcoholic asks for four Alka-Seltzers) and inevitably wishes for something that yields un-wished-for consequences. The conceit works, but the four closing stories are even better. In these, German novelist Arjouni (Magic Hoffman, 2000, etc.) shifts his creative talents and humor into overdrive, with results as smooth as an S-Class Mercedes on the Autobahn, as when a wannabe novelist, by recounting his plot, winds up lulling to sleep a bank robber who’s holding him hostage at gunpoint; or when a famous director pays a hitchhiker to pose as his long-lost writer-friend at a party, where, when another guest inquires what genre he writes, the imposter responds, “Holy Scripture.”

Are you wishing for a wry, sly book about the human comedy? Wish granted.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-59051-157-3

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


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.


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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