As compassionate as it is funny, and never overstays its welcome.

THE PLEASURE OF MY COMPANY

A NOVELLA

The lighter side of obsessive-compulsive behavior.

What a joy the novella is. It may not be the best deal out there in terms of dollars-per-page, but many authors would give better value if they realized they had only a long story’s worth of material and stuck to it. Martin’s second short fiction (after Shopgirl, 2000) is an impressively economical and yet by no means limited piece of light comedy. Although Daniel Cambridge doesn’t have a job, he keeps himself pretty busy. See, Daniel is chock-full of obsessive little tics that would drive the ordinary person insane. For instance, the combined wattage of all the lights turned on his Santa Monica apartment at any one time must be 1125, and he often leaves his apartment (not stepping off curbs) for the sole purpose of satisfying his need to touch the corner of every copying machine at Kinko’s. Daniel also has an elaborate fantasy life involving women he sees passing his window. Fortunately, his grandmother back in Texas sends him money every so often: “She is the one family member who understands that my insanity is benign and that my failure to hold a job is not due to laziness.” As always in stories about a closed-off neurotic of this kind, the world in all its chaotic glory must come crashing into his life in multiple ways, first in Daniel’s sputtering imaginary relationship with a local real-estate lady and then something much more tangible with Clarissa, his social worker. Although Martin succumbs to a banal plot choice later on, when his neurotic goes on a road trip, this is a genuinely funny and surprisingly touching tale. By letting Daniel speak for himself, the author enables the reader to experience his neuroses from the inside and to witness them as the strangely reassuring, though assuredly life-limiting, rituals that they are.

As compassionate as it is funny, and never overstays its welcome.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7868-6921-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2003

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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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