A prequel to Montana 1948 (1993), once again centered on the Hayden family of Montana, though this time the focus broadens beyond a small-town sheriff and his bad brother to explore the theme of justice in a series of intimate short stories. The collection is notable for its unrelenting tension, the result of texture and detail more than plot or conflict. The striking novella that opens the volume, ``Outside the Jurisdiction,'' shows brothers Wesley and Frank Hayden, sons of sheriff Julian, setting off with two no-accounts in 1924 for a town outside their father's jurisdiction. At a local cafe the boys—or at least the no-accounts—harass two Indian girls; the local sheriff humiliates them with ad hoc justice before sending them home. The next story, ``Julian Hayden,'' moves the action back to 1899, when their father arrived in Montana and began homesteading with his widowed mother and sisters; when one sister is overworked by a minister in another town, Julian takes justice into his own hands. Moving ahead seven years to 1906, ``Enid Garling'' tells the story of Julian's wife; she thwarts her possessive father by marrying Julian. ``Thanksgiving'' captures the family in 1927, when the sons return from college for the holidays and Wesley begins to understand that brother Frank is not to be trusted (a major theme in Montana 1948). Of the remaining episodes, ``Len McAuley'' profiles a deputy who develops a crush on Wesley's wife, Gail, in 1935; ``Sheriff's Wife'' and ``The Visit,'' both set in 1937, chronicle Gail's disillusionment with her husband's brand of frontier justice and the birth of their son, David. Episodic, but also an intense, vivid portrait of braided lives.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1995

ISBN: 1-57131-002-9

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Milkweed

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1994

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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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