NEW YORK TIME

Through the traumas of mid-westerner Barbara Renfrew, class of '65, Peck takes zippy aim at some very broad targets: the dear dead days of college sororities, felt skirts, and garter belts; middle-exec Chicago suburbia; lower-exec Mafia digs in New Jersey; and moldering Manhattan. But once the going gets smooth for Barbara, with a new husband and prospective motherhood, the sweetness palls, and the novel loses pepper power. We first meet housewife Barbara in freezing Walden Woods, Illinois—so "gnawingly wholesome"—where she grabs for college nostalgia (college pinning-night serenades "in a gaggle of terrycloth and Spoolies on the Tri-Delt balcony"), mutilates a frozen pie in stabs at home cooking, and visits neighbor Libby (who dusts valances at midnight and wears "circle pins right through Watergate"). But then husband Tom announces the company move to New York City—and soon there's house-hunting in scary New Jersey and then apartment-hunting in Manhattan: they buy a place in a neighborhood "where Rosemary's baby could grow to manhood without exciting comment." Eventually, however, Tom will announce that he's leaving Barbara for a woman back home—though not before the author has skewered N.Y. (crazies, hoods, and general crud), as well as a WASP upper-exec dinner featuring "an exceedingly clear soup, perhaps drained from the eaves." And, finally, Barbara's befogged solo misery is ended by young Ed Kimbell, an urban agriculturist who turns Manhattan into an isle of dreams: sex, love, marriage, and a saccharine finale with Ed's eccentric, dying grandmother and Barbara's pregnancy. Overall: lots of fine witchy humor, but not enough motor power to carry a familiar tale over the top of sentiment.

Pub Date: March 1, 1981

ISBN: 0440163323

Page Count: -

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1981

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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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