Hilderbrand's sixth novel heaps on the trauma as a substitute for realistic connection in this heady mix of beach house, cancer, affair and mom lit. Connecticut housewife Vicki, diagnosed with lung cancer, has packed up her two kids for a chemo-commuting summer at the family's Nantucket cabin; sister Brenda, a newly minted high-powered assistant professor, has just been fired for having an affair with one of her students; Vicki's best friend, Melanie, newly pregnant, has discovered her husband is cheating. The three hit the tarmac of the tiny island airport, where they run into home-for-the-summer Middlebury senior Josh Flynn, who has a summer job there that he hates. Hardened cliché Brenda pines for her stereotypically weathered Australian lover. Melanie is a chronic complainer until she romances grim aspiring writer Josh, whom she has run into again and brought on as the house babysitter. (Josh thinks his old girlfriend should "locate her center" and "operate from a place of security.") Of the three women, only the suffering, stubborn Vicki, who keeps a list of "Things That No Longer Mattered" and cries when she can't seduce her visiting husband, draws readerly sympathy. There are some tender moments in Hilderbrand's latest beacher, but others are as irritating as sand in your swimsuit. (July)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Barefootby Elin Hilderbrand
Three women arrive at the local airport, observed by Josh, a Nantucket native home from college for the summer. Burdened with small children, unwieldy straw hats, and some obvious emotional issues, the women-- two sisters and one friend--make their way to the sisters' tiny cottage, inherited from an aunt. They're all trying to escape from something: Melanie,… See more details below
Three women arrive at the local airport, observed by Josh, a Nantucket native home from college for the summer. Burdened with small children, unwieldy straw hats, and some obvious emotional issues, the women-- two sisters and one friend--make their way to the sisters' tiny cottage, inherited from an aunt. They're all trying to escape from something: Melanie, after seven failed in-vitro attempts, learned her husband was having an affair, and then discovered she's pregnant; Brenda embarked on a passionate affair with an older student that got her fired from her prestigious job as a professor in New York; and her sister Vicki, mother to two small boys, has been diagnosed with lung cancer. Soon Josh is part of the chaotic household, acting as babysitter, confidant, and, eventually, lover.
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By Elin Hilderbrand
Little, Brown and CompanyCopyright © 2007 Elin Hilderbrand
All right reserved.
Three women step off of a plane. It sounded like the start of a joke. Joshua Flynn, age twenty-two, native of Nantucket Island, senior at Middlebury College, summer employee of the Nantucket Memorial Airport, where his father was an air traffic controller, noticed the women immediately. They arrived on a US Airways flight from LaGuardia. Three women, two small children, nothing unusual about that, so what caught Josh's eye? Josh Flynn was a creative-writing student at Middlebury, and his mentor, the writer-in-residence, Chas Gorda, liked to say that a writer smells a good story in the air like it's an approaching storm. The hair on your arms will stand up, Chas Gorda promised. Josh checked his forearms-nothing-and tugged at his fluorescent orange vest. He approached the plane to help Carlo unload the luggage. Josh's father, Tom Flynn, would be at a computer terminal five stories above Josh's head, occasionally spying out the window to make sure Josh was doing what he called "a decent job." Being under surveillance like this provided as unsettling a work situation as Josh could imagine, and so in the two weeks he'd been at it, he'd learned to sniff for stories without giving himself away.
Two of the women stood on the tarmac. Josh could tell they were sisters. Sister One was very thin with long light-brown hair that blew all over the place in the breeze; she had a pointy nose, blue eyes, and she was visibly unhappy. Her forehead was as scrunched and wrinkled as one of those funny Chinese dogs. Sister Two had the same blue eyes, the same sharp nose, but instead of scowling, Sister Two's face conveyed baffled sadness. She blinked a lot, like she was about to cry. She was heavier than her sister, and her hair, cut bluntly to her shoulders, was a Scandinavian blond. She carried a fl oral-print bag bursting with diapers and a colorful set of plastic keys; she was taking deep, exaggerated breaths, as though the flight had just scared her to death.
The third woman teetered at the top of the steps with a baby in her arms and a little boy of about four peeking around her legs. She had a pretty, round face and corkscrew curls that peeked out from underneath a straw hat. She was wearing jeans with muddy knees and a pair of rubber clogs.
The sisters waited at the bottom of the stairs for this third woman to descend. Heavy-breathing Sister reached out for the baby, shaking the keys. "Come to Mama," she said. "Here, Melanie, I'll take him." In addition to the baby, Straw Hat held a package of Cheez-Its, a green plastic cup, and an air-sickness bag. She was two steps from the ground when the little boy behind her shouted, "Auntie Brenda, here I come!"
He was aiming for Scowling Sister, but in his excitement, he hurtled his forty-some pound body into the back of Straw Hat, who went sprawling onto the tarmac with the baby. Josh bolted forward-though he knew he wouldn't be quick enough to save anyone. Straw Hat covered the baby's head with her hands and took the brunt of the fall on her knees and her left arm. Ouch.
"Melanie!" Heavy-breathing Sister cried. She dropped the diaper bag and raced toward Straw Hat. The baby wasn't making any noise. Neck broken. Dead. Josh felt his spirit trickle onto the tarmac as though he'd wet his pants. But then-a cry! The baby had merely been sucking in air, released now in heroic tones. The baby was alive! Heavy-breathing Sister took the baby and studied him for obvious injury, then shushed him against her shoulder. Scowling Sister approached with the perpetrator of the crime, older brother, clinging to her legs.
"Is the baby okay?" Scowling Sister asked. Her expression shifted from impatient to impatient and concerned.
"He's fine," Heavy-breathing Sister said. "Just scared." She reached out to Straw Hat. "Are you okay, Melanie? Are you okay? Do you feel okay?"
Melanie dusted the tarmac grit off her face; there was a scrape on her elbow, some blood. The Cheez-Its blew off down the runway; the plastic cup rolled to Josh's feet. He picked it up, and the air-sickness bag as well.
"Would you like me to get a first-aid kit?" he asked Melanie. She put a hand to her cheek, and the other hand massaged her stomach. "Oh, no. Thank you, though. I'm fine."
"Are you sure?" Heavy-breathing Sister said. "What about ...?" "I'm fine," Melanie said.
"Blaine will apologize," Heavy-breathing Sister said. "Apologize, Blaine."
"Sorry," the boy mumbled. "You could have hurt your brother. You could have hurt Melanie. You just can't do things like that, sweetheart. You have to be careful."
"He said he was sorry, Vick," Scowling Sister said. This was not joke material. The three women, collectively, were the most miserable-looking people Josh had ever seen.
"Welcome to Nantucket," Josh said, hoping his words might cheer them, though Carlo was always reminding him that he was not an ambassador. He should just tend to the bags; his father would be watching.
Scowling Sister rolled her eyes. "Thanks a lot," she said.
Excerpted from Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand Copyright © 2007 by Elin Hilderbrand. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Elin Hilderbrand lives on Nantucket with her husband and their three young children. She grew up in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, and traveled extensively before settling on Nantucket, which has been the setting for her five previous novels. Hilderbrand is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the graduate fiction workshop at the University of Iowa.
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