Not one of Moriarty's best outings.

TRULY MADLY GUILTY

Relying less on comedy or edginess than in previous novels (Big Little Lies, 2014, etc.), Moriarty explores the social and psychological repercussions of a barbecue in Sydney gone terribly awry.

What happened emerges slowly through glimpses of characters coping—or not coping—weeks after the event intercut with an unfolding chronicle of the actual barbecue day. Both past and present are seen through the eyes of those remembering, who have been affected very differently by the events. Leading up to the barbecue, Erika and her husband, Oliver, accountants whose buttoned-up personalities compensate for miserable upbringings (in Erika’s case by a hoarder and in Oliver’s by alcoholics), have invited Erika’s childhood friend Clementine, a cellist preparing for an important audition, her husband, Sam, and two small children, 2-year-old Ruby and 5-year-old Holly, for afternoon tea and are nervously planning to ask Clementine to donate eggs to help them have a baby. Oliver is understandably upset when Erika accepts a spur-of-the-moment invitation from their wealthy, very sociable neighbor, Vid, to bring everyone over to his backyard for a barbecue. But Clementine, who was instinctively dreading Erika’s tea, jumps at the chance for a lively afternoon with Vid, his sexy wife, Tiffany, and their brainy 10-year-old daughter, Dakota. While Dakota watches the smaller girls, the adults proceed to get mildly sloshed. Then Erika, drunk for the first time in her life, screams, and a child ends up in a life-threatening situation. The suspicion and guilt the adults and even children secretly feel in the aftermath cause rifts and secrets to surface within the three marriages and within Erika and Clementine’s friendship. The setup here is reminiscent of fellow Australian novelist Christos Tsiokas’ The Slap (2008), but while Tsiokas uses a minor incident to propel his corrosive examination of middle-class lives, Moriarty’s characters resolve their issues too neatly and with too much comforting ease.

Not one of Moriarty's best outings.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-06979-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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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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