THIS FAMILY OF WOMEN

By the author of Amanda/Miranda and other entertainments: a four-generational set of stout-hearted ladies—tough, wily, dwarfing their men, independent, and passing along their survivalist strengths to their daughters (often at a chilly or chary distance). Lena Wheatley tells her story of the wagon-train trek from Illinois to California in 1850, when she was a shy, wary 14: she loses her mother to TB and loses friends, particularly her "idol," the beautiful, graceful Sarah Ann, to an Indian attack; only after the searing journey is over does Lena, scalded by loss, dare to take comfort in the remnants of family—her adoptive Pa and Sarah Ann's wounded brother Lorenzo; she'll marry miner/farmer Evan after Pa's death. And then. . . Sarah Ann is found!—now a tattooed "savage," mind-crippled and pregnant by a Mojave husband. The two women are thereafter linked for life: Lena's child is whiny Opal, whom she idolizes; Sarah Ann will bear Effie, whom Lena will reluctantly adopt as her own. So, in generation #2, Effie tells of the move to a boarding house in Nebraska—where gruff, kind Sophie Wilhelm takes on widowed Lena as housekeeper, Sarah Ann as cook, grooming the despised Effie as a society beauty; and Effie's infatuation for Lorenzo forces Lena to tell the truth of her parentage. Effie's daughter Constance will host the next segment—as the narrative leaps from hard-time brothel days (Lena must diversify after the great fire of 1875) to silks and furs and San Francisco, where Effie, married to theater impresario Anton Nicholas, is now "Eve Waring"—a turquoise-eyed beauty who'll pack houses as an actress (and net the Prince of Wales). Constance's tale, however, spreads into other family matters: horrid Aunt Opal has married and produced twin boys, one of whom, gambler and sadist Terry, marries Constance's best friend Rose (who'll take terrible revenge); Constance marries Englishman Hugh, who's killed in the Boer war (but waiting at home is her fellow architect Joe); Constance's son Anton meets Rose's daughter June during WW I; June later dies. So the last testimony is Anton's tribute in 1939 to a Family of Women. . . and his own young daughter. Winey, full-bodied, gossipy, offering both calico and satin: a romantically styled winner.

Pub Date: April 18, 1983

ISBN: 0440187907

Page Count: 420

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1983

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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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