Barefoot Review
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Vicki, a housewife with two small children, has lung cancer. Her sister, Brenda, an assistant professor, was fired for having an affair with a student. Vicki’s friend, Melanie, is pregnant, and her cheating husband doesn’t know. The women decide to get away to Nantucket to stay in the sisters’ cottage for the summer, and Vicki opts to have chemo at the island hospital instead of at a big-city specialty hospital.

Josh, a local Nantucket kid, lands a job babysitting for Vicki’s children. Brenda is supposed to be helping Vicki with the children (after all, that’s why she came), but she’s also trying to write a screenplay to pay her legal bills, since she’ll never be able to teach again—and she can’t get any work done if she’s watching her sister’s kids. Josh ends up having an affair with the pregnant Melanie—which is just wrong and not particularly germane. I was rather put off by it (okay…I was disgusted). It would have been more palatable if Melanie had hooked up with an old flame instead of a young kid.

The characters (including the husbands) are so absorbed in their own lives that, at times, poor Vicki is left floundering, suffering in silence, all alone in the background. Vicki’s husband comes to the island only on the weekends (despite the fact that his wife is undergoing treatment—albeit at the island hospital—for advanced-stage lung cancer). Melanie’s mooning about what to do because her snake of a husband wants to come back to her—but she’s not sure that she wants him. Brenda’s wondering if she should ask her seriously ill sister to buy out Brenda’s share of the Nantucket cottage so she can pay her legal bills—while avoiding phone calls from her lawyer, who’s looking for $300,000 to settle a lawsuit against her.

Barefoot is touted as a beach read, but I found it depressing. While I sometimes get satisfaction out of reading about people who have more problems than I do, I don’t want to be depressed at the beach because I’m reading a book about unhappy people who (with the exception of Vicki) are moaning and groaning about problems of their own making. And if you’re battling cancer or know someone who is, you might want to skip this book. Having seen my mother, my father, and my sister struggle with the disease, I was pretty much cancered-out by the end of this story, having agonized along with Vicki.

In the end, everything wraps up too neatly, which is unrealistic given the problems these people have. It’s as if the author suddenly decides that the book has to end, so she blesses all the characters with incredible luck and good fortune.

Barefoot is disappointing and unsatisfying. Instead of identifying with and getting lost in the characters and storylines, I found that reading this book was a burden.

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