Achingly beautiful and filled with heart-wrenchingly real characters: one of Hoffman’s best.

SKYLIGHT CONFESSIONS

A Yale senior loses his way on Long Island, and three generations suffer the consequences in this haunting latest from Hoffman (The Ice Queen, 2005, etc.).

Convinced that he’s the true love she promised herself as her father lay dying, orphaned 17-year-old Arlie Singer seduces John Moody moments after he stops to ask for directions. Stunned by his recklessness, the normally cautious and tidy John hightails it back to college. But Arlie will not be denied, so they are married too young, have baby Sam too soon and, after John’s parents move to Florida, are trapped full-time in the Glass Slipper, an all-windows house designed by his father, a famous architect. John ignores his own brilliant, odd son and hardly ever comes home from work. Arlie, realizing she’s made a terrible mistake, falls in love with George Snow, who washes the Glass Slipper’s windows. She won’t leave Sam, even after she has George’s baby—John, typically, seems oblivious—but she’s stricken with breast cancer and dead at 25. Sam grows up angry and bereft; at 16, he has a full-fledged drug habit, and even his devoted ten-year-old sister Blanca can’t keep him in the house he hates with the father he loathes. Hoffman spins a grim fairy tale, complete with an unsympathetic stepmother (Cynthia, who was sleeping with John before Arlie died) and a strange nanny (Meredith, who follows John to Connecticut because she’s the only one besides him who sees Arlie’s ghost hovering around). But while unsparingly depicting the awful damage unhappy people inflict on each other, the author refuses to provide villains; even clueless, thoughtless John is at heart terrified and remorseful. His final actions suggest that it’s never too late to see the truth, and that terrible mistakes can sometimes be at least partially atoned for—but this is a very sad story. Nonetheless, the ending offers hope for Blanca and a surprising posthumous redemption for desperate, doomed Sam.

Achingly beautiful and filled with heart-wrenchingly real characters: one of Hoffman’s best.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2007

ISBN: 0-316-05878-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2006

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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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