Barefoot Paperback – 10 Jul 2008
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Wry and moving (Sainsbury's magazine ** 'Touching and uplifting')
U Magazine ** 'A fun read (Star ** 'This book was a great read - you really care what happens to the characters. Perfect holiday reading. I didn't want to put it down')
An utterly absorbing and brilliantly observed story of friendship, sisterhood, motherhood and fate.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
`Barefoot' is about three women who go away for the summer to Nantucket. They are all in the midst of stressful situations: Vicki has lung cancer, her younger sister Brenda has recently been fired from her professorial position for having a relationship with an (older) student, and newly pregnant Melanie has discovered that her husband is having an affair. The fourth main character in the book is Josh, a 21 year old local boy whom Vicki hires as a babysitter for her two children. Josh's character felt the least real to me. A good looking 21 year old who keeps a journal and enjoys listening to older women talk about their marital problems? Perhaps they do exist, but I've never met one.
But it is the three women who will hold your attention as we gradually find out their back stories and wonder if they can find happiness. Vicki's battle with lung cancer is depicted in such a tense way that at times I was almost afraid to read on - not sure if I could relax when things seemed to be going well and terrified when they didn't seem to be. Brenda was my favorite character - so talented, but also hellbent on making poor decisions for herself, based on emotion. And Melanie's arc is involving too, though I have to say I was interested in her the least.
My one major criticism of the book is that the writing towards the end seemed to change in style. It felt like Elin Hilderbrand had a tight deadline to get this out and rushed the last few chapters. However this is still a very enjoyable book, which held my attention throughout. The perfect addition to your holiday reading (or if you just want to feel like you're on holiday).
Because the author avoids unnecessary sentimentality, the characters of the three women are able to shine through, their individual stories ringing true at every step. This is book about real people with real motivations, feelings and failings.
Vicki Stowe, 32 and her sister Brenda Lyndon, 31 are spending their summer on Nantucket, of course with Vicki's friend Melanie in tow. Vicki's two children Blaine, 4 and his gruesomely named brother Porter,* an infant are on this trek. In fact, readers are introduced to the trio when Melanie nearly trips at the airport with Vicki's kids. (Having Porter as a surname is one thing, but to inflict that name on a hapless baby is an entirely different matter.)
Luckily, Island resident Josh Flynn, 21, and a summer employee at the airport is taken by the trio. He dislikes his job and is only doing it to help defray the cost of his senior year in Vermont. He has an unrequited crush on Brenda as, according to her character, men seem to do.
In fact, Brenda was fired from a teaching post at a small university for having an affair with a student who was one year her junior. To make matters worse, Brenda was being sued because in a childish fit of pique, she threw her esoteric book at a Jackson Pollack painting, causing minor damage. She acted a fool at her hearing and ultimately hurt her own case. The university staff were made up of a cadre of very dislikable people. Brenda's hearing was also comprised of dislikable people, including the traitors, one of whom was a faculty member who turned Brenda in. Sadly, Brenda's area of expertise was so narrow as her entire academic life and career in academia revolved around a rather obscure book.
Melanie's husband Peter was involved in an affair with a rather dislikable woman named Frances. Melanie walks out on Peter and their house in Connecticut to take Vicki up on her offer to spend the summer on the Island. Vicki and Brenda's mother believe, to a humorous degree that "Nantucket sand between your toes" is a panacea. Melanie is pregnant, finally after several years of unsuccessful in vitro attempts.
Vicki has been diagnosed with lung cancer and believes, to a certain extent that Nantucket sand really IS a panacea. She has a delightful medical team at the hospital on the Island and her husband Ted, who comes to visit later in the book is a truly good person.
So is Josh Flynn, whom Brenda commissions to babysit Vicki's boys. Josh bonds with them and to a certain extent identifies with them as he lost a mother under very traumatic circumstances some 10 years earlier. He also has a former girlfriend with nothing to recommend her. In fact, Didi is such an odious character that you just can't like or sympathize with her. She extorts money from Josh; has a fatal attraction on him; threatens him and is involved in a number of questionable activities. Many was the time when I wanted to kick Didi in the shins and I was so glad when Josh made it plain to her he was no longer interested in her. What I found hard to believe was when Didi, who had a job at the Admitting Desk at the hospital where Vicki was being treated made snide comments about Vicki's possible death and for threatening Brenda on another occasion. She should have been reported ASAP and fired even sooner. I had an EXTREMELY adverse reaction to Didi and thoroughly detested her.
I was not overly fond of Brenda either and wanted to kick her in the shins a few times. I thought she was very selfish, self centered and self serving. I didn't like the way she treated Melanie and said mean things about her when Melanie could hear them. Although the results were good, I didn't like the way she advertized for baby sitters without consulting Vicki. Sixteen months Vicki's junior, she had long been an antagonist to her sister. One part I found a tad implausible was Vicki's reported response and behavior to Brenda shortly after Brenda was born. Her behavior sounded far advanced for a 1-year-old and more believable from a child at least twice that age.
I loved the men in this book for the most part. Brenda's boyfriend was just delightful. A brilliant, kind man from Australia, John Walsh brought a fresh insight into the story. Josh was a very kind and unusually mature young man who was able to provide support on an adult level and be a kind and responsible example/caretaker for the Stowe boys. He was incredibly kind to Vicki, knowing how seriously ill she was.
For anybody who has ever lost a loved one to cancer and/or who has cared about somebody going through chemo and radiation treatments, you might cry when you read about Vicki's ordeal. George Harrison died from lung cancer. A relative died from cancer. This book is so on target that readers will come away thinking about it long after they have turned the last page.
On a tangential note, I didn't like the cover. I am tired of feet, toes and sand instead faces being shown. The cover just was not aesthetically appealing. However, the UK cover is much more appealing as you see people and where they are instead of just feet.
I would recommend this book to anybody. Belinda Carlisle's 1988 "Circle in the Sand" could be the soundtrack of this book along with Tom Chapin's "All My Life's a Circle."
*Dr. William G. Porter, an oncologist who is acknowledged in this book had a literary namesake.
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