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Second Nature Hardcover – February 9, 1994


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 254 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's; 1st edition (February 9, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399139087
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399139086
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #709,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Beguiled by her seductive prose and her imaginative virtuosity, readers have always been willing to suspend disbelief and enjoy the touches of magic in Hoffman's novels ( Illumination Night ; Turtle Moon , etc). Here, credibility is stretched not by magical intervention but by the implausibility of a major character. When a feral young man is discovered living with wolves in a remote area of upper Michigan, he cannot speak and can barely remember his early life. Transferred to a hospital in Manhattan, he does not utter a sound and is on his way to being incarcerated in a mental institution until divorced landscape designer Robin Moore impulsively hustles him into her pickup truck and carries him to the sanctuary of her home on an island in Nassau County. There the Wolf Man reveals that his name is Stephen and that he was the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed his parents when he was three-and-a-half years old; thereafter he lived with a wolf pack. Within three months Robin teaches Stephen to read; soon afterwards they begin a passionate affair. How Stephen can so easily expand the small vocabulary he had mastered at a tender age but has never used since, how suddenly he can deal with sophisticated concepts, speak in grammatical sentences and even observe the social graces, is the central flaw that undermines what is otherwise a highly engaging tale. Stephen's presence in the community causes various people to reassess their lives; then there is a tragedy involving a child, (a device that is beginning to be a pattern in Hoffman's novels, as are strange changes in climate that herald a significant event). Hoffman's keen appraisal of human nature and her graceful prose do much to keep this novel appealing; but the bedrock implausibility may deter readers from whole-hearted enjoyment.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Hoffman has always written sympathetically about misfits and loners, from her first book, Property Of ( LJ 5/15/77) to Turtle Moon ( LJ 2/15/92), and her new novel is no exception. Robin Moore rescues a wild, nonspeaking young man--called the Wolf Man because he was found, injured, in a wolf trap--from impending transfer to a mental hospital. In the process of teaching Stephen how to live in "civilized" suburban society, she falls in love with him. Meanwhile, neightborhood animals are found with their throats slit, and a teenage girl is murdered; the Wolf Man is naturally a suspect. Hoffman writes with surehanded grace and detail about Stephen's many years living with a pack of wolves, and she's equally adept at sensitively examining marriage, first love, and adultery. Difficult questions about nature vs. nurture, what it means to be civilized, the justification for murder, and the mysteries of real love are explored in evocative prose. This beautifully written, suspenseful, and thought-provoking novel is highly recommended for all libraries. Literary Guild Main Selection.
- Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston and New York.

Hoffman's first novel, Property Of, was written at the age of twenty-one, while she was studying at Stanford, and published shortly thereafter by Farrar Straus and Giroux. She credits her mentor, professor and writer Albert J. Guerard, and his wife, the writer Maclin Bocock Guerard, for helping her to publish her first short story in the magazine Fiction. Editor Ted Solotaroff then contacted her to ask if she had a novel, at which point she quickly began to write what was to become Property Of, a section of which was published in Mr. Solotaroff's magazine, American Review.

Since that remarkable beginning, Alice Hoffman has become one of our most distinguished novelists. She has published a total of eighteen novels, two books of short fiction, and eight books for children and young adults. Her novel, Here on Earth, an Oprah Book Club choice, was a modern reworking of some of the themes of Emily Bronte's masterpiece Wuthering Heights. Practical Magic was made into a Warner film starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Her novel, At Risk, which concerns a family dealing with AIDS, can be found on the reading lists of many universities, colleges and secondary schools. Her advance from Local Girls, a collection of inter-related fictions about love and loss on Long Island, was donated to help create the Hoffman (Women's Cancer) Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA. Blackbird House is a book of stories centering around an old farm on Cape Cod. Hoffman's recent books include Aquamarine and Indigo, novels for pre-teens, and The New York Times bestsellers The River King, Blue Diary, The Probable Future, and The Ice Queen. Green Angel, a post-apocalyptic fairy tale about loss and love, was published by Scholastic and The Foretelling, a book about an Amazon girl in the Bronze Age, was published by Little Brown. In 2007 Little Brown published the teen novel Incantation, a story about hidden Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, which Publishers Weekly has chosen as one of the best books of the year. In January 2007, Skylight Confessions, a novel about one family's secret history, was released on the 30th anniversary of the publication of Her first novel. Her most recent novel is The Story Sisters (2009), published by Shaye Areheart Books.

Hoffman's work has been published in more than twenty translations and more than one hundred foreign editions. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, and People Magazine. She has also worked as a screenwriter and is the author of the original screenplay "Independence Day" a film starring Kathleen Quinlan and Diane Wiest. Her short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Kenyon Review, Redbook, Architectural Digest, Gourmet, Self, and other magazines. Her teen novel Aquamarine was recently made into a film starring Emma Roberts.

Customer Reviews

It was a nice easy, fast read.
Theresa W
I don't want to offer spoilers- but I'll just say that I was just not into certain plot devices the writer chose to employ.
Romantic Glutton
I've read alot of Alice Hoffman's books and I'd have to say that this is my favorite!
Allyson R. Fournier

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 21, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Reading over some of the other customer reviews, I notice that many people criticized this book for being too unrealistic. I think those people are missing the point. This is a modern fairy-tale, and fairy-tales are meant to be lessons about what it means to be human, and how we are supposed to live our lives. Using the "Wolfman", Stephen, as a metaphor, Hoffman manages to show how our modern world can cause us to forget our connection to the rest of nature. Using the events in the story, she shows how fragile and precious love is, and how grief and tragedy can cloud our vision and cause us to place blame on innocent people.
This is the third novel by Hoffman I have read, and it is by far the most poignant and most philosophical. Hoffman is a magnificent writer, one whom I strive to emulate. If you are looking for a touch of magic, a story which might illuminate for you what it means to be human in the last part of the twentieth century, Hoffman is the author you should read. And this book would be a great place to start!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By KAJAM on September 26, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I may be biased, because I just love this author, but this was truly a great book. You begin reading it like it is a fairy tale, and soon forget the unlikeliness of the story line -it becomes utterly real to you. This was truly an excellent book - I don't know if I would have read it if I was unfamiliar with the author, but I am so glad I did. I recommend it to all of my friends.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 9, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've read several of Ms. Hoffman's books and enjoyed them all. Second Nature, however, stole my heart. I loved it.
Then I read the reviews and comments from some of the other readers and had to sit back and wonder why it moved me so much while other readers clearly found it unbelievable. I'm a published author myself, and as such, a very critical reader. So, yes, there were plot holes, things that couldn't possibly have happened. But Ms. Hoffman's weaves a spell of magic with her writing that forced me to suspend disbelief. Her books take me back to when I read for the pure pleasure of the story rather than how she plotted a scene or developed a character. Her writing is simple and beautiful, and I couldn't have cared less whether Robin could have actually walked out of that hospital with Stephen. Or whether a she-wolf would in reality take in a human child and raise her as her own. I wanted to believe, and for the space of this very special book, I did. To me, that's pure magic.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tanya Lamnin on July 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
I read this years ago, but figured I should add to the positive reviews of this really wonderful novel. Maybe it's my romantic side, but I absolutely loved it. It is blamed for being unrealistic. OF COURSE it's unrealistic. Men, brought up by wolves do not turn civilized in the matter of weeks. But SN does not claim to be an anthropology textbook. It is a love story, and an extremely beautiful one at that. It is also the best that Hoffman has written (I think)--the atmosphere of a little town where time stands still is done masterfully, as is the atmosphere of that same town when something goes dreadfully wrong. The romance between the main characters is wonderful. I highly recommend it to all you romantics out there (but NOT to those seeking to read a true antrhopological account).
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen Valentine on October 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
Alice Hoffman is a master at taking an entirely bizarre and improbable situation and make it seem like something that could happen to anyone at anytime. She has a spare and yet fluid way of writing that is faintly magical and yet entirely believable. I have read most of her books but I think this is my favorite (this and "Turtle Moon"). What Hoffman does better than anyone else is create characters who are loaded with flaws and faults and yet are somehow amazingly lovable.

Stephen, the central character of this story, is a man who was raised by wolves. Don't we all know someone like that? And yet, with her deft hand for counterbalancing toughness and vulnerability, Hoffman makes him seem like the guy we have all been waiting for. I'm not a fan of the popular genre of books that are identified as "romance" --- for me Hoffman is the consummate romantic. Her characters are utterly unique and entirely ordinary with that one curious little twist. Stephen, as designed by Hoffman, is the original "sexy beast". Read slow and savor.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Donna K. on August 21, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Alice Hoffman's books are darker and weirder, and her writing style is much different, than my usual reading preferences. Initially, I was drawn to her books because Long Island is the setting, or Long Island references are incorporated into many of her novels. I quickly became spellbound by her books!

Although it's hard to imagine that a single mother would take an undomesticated man into her household, the story had sort of a Jungle Book or "My Fair Lady" feeling to it. Stephen was raised by wolves in the wild and the way he communed with nature and utilized his survival skills was fascinating! Robin was a compassionate and likeable woman, and the chemistry between the two sizzled! Supporting characters added color and depth to the story. The killings were kind of gruesome, but the reader knows Stephen wasn't responsible even though he is the likely suspect, and it wasn't difficult to guess who the killer was.
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