Beneath all the busy trimmings, though, it's just another reworking of your basic self-reflexive parody incest opera...

WATCH YOUR MOUTH

Handler follows up his waggish debut (The Basic Eight, 1999) with an even more pungent fricassee: a summer's romance turned incestuous and murderous, cast in the form of an opera followed, naturally, by a 12-step recovery program.

Not that Joseph Last Name Changed to Protect the Innocent, as he refers to himself, has anything that outré in mind. What he expects when he signs on as assistant arts and crafts counselor to his girlfriend Cynthia Glass is a placid summer finishing up his junior-year incompletes in the time off from commuting between suburban Pittsburgh's Camp Shalom by day and Cynthia's enthusiastic bed by night. Oh, he's willing to vary the routine via the woods around Camp Shalom, the back of Cyn's car, and the occasional vertical bonk. What he's not willing to countenance is an incestuous streak that guarantees you'll never confuse this Glass family with J.D. Salinger's. Dad and Mom ("call me Mimi") lust respectively after their daughter and son, and young Ben pines for his big sis. The Glasses don't just pine either, as Joseph acknowledges every night when Cyn leaves his damp bed for her father's. Fortunately for Cyn's grandmother, the old lady dies before confessing any desire she might have to repossess her own flesh. The rest of the Glasses follow more violently, falling victim one by one to somebody the cops in Pittsburgh, California (don't ask), think is Joseph and Joseph thinks is the golem Mimi was building in her basement. No jest is too broad (Mimi's physician is named Dr. Zhivago), no simile too indecorous for Joseph's desperately coy unfolding of his summer of discontent and its sequel, as self-satisfied allusions from Kafka to Nabokov to Bill W. jostle for recognition.

Beneath all the busy trimmings, though, it's just another reworking of your basic self-reflexive parody incest opera mystery. About average for the genre.

Pub Date: July 21, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-20940-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

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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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