BY THE RIVER PIEDRA I SAT DOWN AND WEPT

By the Brazilian author of The Alchemist (1993) and the nonfictional The Valkyries: An Encounter with Angels (1995), a more mature work of fiction that may sell big. Coelho adds fiber to his usual dish of inspirational spun-sugar with this new Christian romance, set in Spain and the Pyrenees. The story follows practical law student Pilar, who at 28 has lost her faith and who suddenly finds herself pursued by a childhood friend she hasn't seen for ten years. One day in December, she receives a letter inviting her to a lecture on religion that that long-lost friend will give in Madrid. Pilar finds that he's now a believer in the miracle of the "Magic Moment," an instant in time when God gives us a chance "to change everything that makes us unhappy." He's also a fervent believer in the Virgin Mary, the "feminine face of God." Has her friend become a seminarian, as he's suggested in a letter to her? Pilar doesn't know, but he wines and dines her and asks her to accompany him on a trip. Soon the two are sharing confidences (but not their bodies), while visiting churches and shrines, including Lourdes. This is mostly a two-character novel, with a priest used for exposition and as a means of filling in the background of Pilar's beloved (who remains nameless, being referred to simply as "he" in the narrative) as a Charismatic healer. Yes, he has the gift of laying on of hands, granted him by the Virgin when he spoke to her in tongues at a meeting of Charismatics. Even Pilar finds she can speak in tongues. Mild erotic tension grows as The Braes of Madison County (will martyr Meryl run off with Clint?) meets The Garden of Allah (will disillusioned Dietrich wed deserter Trappist Boyer?) and Love demands that Pilar's beloved abandon healing for sexual/spiritual fulfillment. Sex and God whipped into a tasty mayonnaise.

Pub Date: June 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-06-251398-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1996

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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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