TELL ME HOW LONG THE TRAIN'S BEEN GONE

Train's been gone some time. While Baldwin, over a past decade, has pixied into vascular self-contemplation, a new breed of lions has taken over the delineation of black identity, and this is obviously Baldwin struggling to find his place in line. The artist at bay here is named Leo Proudhammer (a witticism which promises much), and this is his background for a breakdown—a massive heart attack suffered in middle age at the height of his stage career. The suffering and white-imposed degradation of a Harlem boyhood is a reliable witness; but the years of slithering among the fixed positions of the white theatrical world, and years of being friend, confidant, lover and co-worker of actress Barbara (herself a cop-out from white-plantation-Kentucky familial ties) continuously accented loneliness, the demands, yet impossibility of love and commitment. Echoing his early incestuous love for older brother Caleb, who was broken into the safe harbor of religion by white treachery, Proudhammer, the successful artist, loves the young black militant Christopher, one who refuses, just for the sake of being alive, to avoid the inevitable race destruction. Loving and living offer only new closed doors. Part I, dealing with outraged childhood has a remembered validity; Part II—amatory theatrics and theatrical amours—in which Barbara and Leo chop away at just what the other is saying, is meaning. . . and well they might. Part III, "Black Christopher" exposes a nerve. On the Latter Day locomotive, a soporific toot.

Pub Date: June 3, 1968

ISBN: 0375701893

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1968

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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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