BARREL FEVER

NPR storyteller Sedaris chronicles a society slightly removed from the mainstream and characters who don't quite fit in with the masses. Deadpan exaggeration gives this first collection a satirical edge. The narrator of ``Parade'' discusses his homosexual relationships with stars whose straightness has never been questioned (Bruce Springsteen, Mike Tyson, and Peter Jennings), using the same matter-of-fact tone to describe the torrid affair of Elizabeth Dole and Pat Buckley. In ``We Get Along,'' Dale lives with his mother, who is full of anger against her deceased, womanizing husband and every night spitefully calls a woman she suspects had an affair with him. Distancing himself from both parents, Dale tries not to rock the boat while keeping some secrets to himself. ``Glen's Homophobia Newsletter, Vol. 3, No. 2'' is a parody of the persecuted in which any minority group could be substituted to replace the whining homosexual who bemoans his suffering at the oppressive hands of society in a style so over- the-top as to be laughable. These and nine other stories are followed by four essays. ``Diary of a Smoker'' is also an account of persecution (by nonsmokers); ``Giantess'' relates Sedaris's experiences with a magazine of erotica about enormous women. Far exceeding them in wit is ``SantaLand Diaries,'' previously read on NPR's ``Morning Edition,'' which describes his seasonal stint as a Macy's elf. Four days of rigorous training on the eighth floor barely prepared him for the crowds, the Santas, and the unending barrage of questions. Throughout the collection, without slapping the reader in the face with a political diatribe, the author skewers our ridiculous fascination with other people's tedious everyday lives. Life may be banal here, but Sedaris's take on it is vastly entertaining. (Author tour)

Pub Date: June 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-316-77940-7

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1994

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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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