Spinning off from the Orpheus myth, Hoban (Pilgermann, 1983; Riddley Walker, 1982; Turtle Diary, 1976) offers a weird modern fable of a London writer's struggles with the quest for inspiration and for a constant, faithful, Eurydice. style love. The narrator is twice-published yet virtually unread novelist Hermann Orff, now working for Classic Comics while lamenting the loss of old flame Luise and vainly waiting for inspiration at the word processor. Desperate, Orff goes to the "Hermes Sound-ways" studio for electro-zap brain stimulation—with immediate results: over the next few days Orff receives periodic visits (hallucinations?) from the "eyeless and bloated" head of Orpheus ("covered with green slime and heavy with barnacles"), which retells the old myth in quirky, digressive detail. Meanwhile, despite the head's warnings that all love leads to "loss," Orff pursues a new paramour, Melanie Falsepercy. He also hops over to Holland, in search of the Vermeer portrait that's his vision of perfect womanhood. Eventually, after a small angina attack, a dear-John letter from Melanie, and increasingly opaque dialogues with "the Kraken" (a terror-symbol), Orff winds up inspired—writing a cartoon series for the backs of cereal boxes and open to a new "frequency" in women. Thanks to tidbits of literary-world satire and Alice in Wonderland silliness (the Orpheus head turns into a cabbage, a grapefruit—and gets eaten), an intrepid reader may feel encouraged to press on through this difficult, allusive mesh of myths, symbols, fantasies, and themes. But, to a greater extent than in previous Hoban obstacle courses, here the imagery and illumination finally don't seem quite worth the effort.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 1987

ISBN: 0747559090

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1987

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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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