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Seventh Heaven Paperback – April 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the full flowering of her extraordinary talent, Hoffman has produced a wise, poignant and uplifting novel luminous with the sensitive evocation of ordinary lives. The setting is a Long Island, N.Y., housing development from 1959 to 1960, a place of conforming, happy families where husbands mow the lawns of the tract houses and wives meet for coffee, where "safety hung over the neighborhood like a net." The arrival of Nora Silk, a brassy divorcee with two young children, is the catalyst for disturbing changes and events, some of them violent. Plucky, impetuous, innocently seductive and a messy housekeeper, Nora is anathema to the subdivision wives, who ostracize her and whose children torment her eight-year-old clairvoyant son, Billy. But as Nora's presence disturbs the community, it is slowly revealed that behind the identical facades of the houses are secret lives of turmoil, restlessness and longing. As in all Hoffman novels, mundane existence is disrupted in surprising ways: families disintegrate, a teenager dies, a placid housewife disappears. And ultimately Nora, whose optimism about her dead-end life is unquenchable, becomes an instrument of healing. Hoffman has intuitive grasp of the thoughts and feelings that are masked by conventional behavior. Like some of her characters, she seems to have a spooky ability to read thoughts; how else to account for her unerring understanding of people of nearly every age and across a broad social spectrum? She has a gift for perceiving the cruelty of children and the wide gulf that yawns between the most loving, attentive parents and their offspring's unknown wishes and deeds. As usual, she tells more than a compulsively readable story. She does magic, she unsettles you and she leaves you feeling emotionally purged and satisfied. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selections.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In felicitously recording the lives of newcomers-on-the-block Nora Silk and her sons, baby James and young Billy, Hoffman proves once again that she can tell a charming story about suburbia that is, at once, mundane and oddly transcendent. Nora, a young, sexy divorcee, moves to the suburbs of New York City following her divorce (in 1959 a scandalous event). All alone, she manages work, her sons, and assorted domestic responsibilities with quirky flair, if not thoroughness (and occasional help from assorted magic spells inherited from her grandfather). Hoffman takes the reader back to that apparently innocent time and into a "nice" neighborhood, where the sunny replicated exteriors of the houses hide sometimes desperate lives within. Nora and her neighbors signal lifestyles of the future: a woman walks out on her family, another goes back to work; a boy is abused and strikes back; a father leaves home. Combining reality with magic, this novel surpasses At Risk (LJ 7/88). It should attract a wide readership. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selections; previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/90.
- Lauren Bielski, New York
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; Reprint edition (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425188485
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425188484
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (154 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #256,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 79 people found the following review helpful By BeachReader on March 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I just finished re-reading this delightful book of Alice Hoffman's. I have had a hard time finding new fiction which interests me lately, so I went back to some old favorites.
This story takes place in the late 50s in a community on Long Island, a former potato field where all the houses look so much alike that sometimes women wander around for hours trying to find their houses. Into this cookie-cutter community of stay-at-home mothers with perfect homes arrives Nora Silk, divorced from her magician husband, with two small boys. The house she moves into is reputed to be haunted and is slowly disintegrating.
Nora is not welcomed by the other mothers, as they have never known anyone who is divorced and they are suspicious of her (and afraid of what their husbands will do). One look at Nora in her stretch pants and spike heels and you know what the husbands thought! Her son Billy is shunned at school--it does not help that he can read others' thoughts. All Nora wants is to be accepted, grow flowers, and have some friends.
But to her credit, she never succumbs to artifice in this quest. Instead of acceptance, Nora is labelled as a witch and Billy fails every subject except penmanship. As for the rest of her life, she "crossed her fingers and waited, she thought good thoughts and experimented with casseroles that contained olive loaf and hoped that would be enough."
There is some of Hoffman's magical realiam woven into the story, but so adroitly that the reader hardly realizes it and must go back and re-read the passage. Hoffman's character descriptions are subtle and spare, but draw a complete picture of this neighborhood.
Another great book by this author!
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By J-Rock on July 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
I was recommended Hoffman by my sister and decided to check out what she is about. A smidge of magic realism mixed with a portrayal of a community and the characters that comprise it. As a man who holds some distaste and disdain for my suburban roots, I enjoyed the pinpricks at the balloon of suburban conformity. I was also genuinely surprised by this book at points, especially in the Ace/Nora axis.
I was not fully satisfied with this book, but I feel that any dissatisfaction reflects my own situation more than the authors' failure to achieve her aims. The change agents in this book are women who throw off the shackles of an imprisoning 50s ideal of woman and the children these women have birthed. The men in this book do not grow in the same kind of ways.
I may read more Hoffman to develop a greater understanding of her work. I feel that I have read a good book but I may not be the intended audience for it.
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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 7, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Seventh Heaven is the sixth book I have read by writer, Alice Hoffman. I obviously think she is an interesting storyteller, as well as an excellent writer of words, or else I wouldn't keep reading her novels. Some I like better than others, though I haven't come across a horrible book yet (though Here On Earth is still my least favorite thus far).
I noticed one main thing that all of her books have in common, and that's the feeling of wistfulness and despair in her books. Like many of her other works, Seventh Heaven centers around a town -- a community. Nora Silk, who is one of her main characters, but certainly not the only one, moves into this town as the only divorced woman on the block. This book takes place in 1959 where people just stayed married, regardless of whether or not the two people involved are happy in the relationship. Not only is Nora divorced, but she's raising two boys: Billy, an elementary-school aged child, and James, a baby. Billy has problems in school fitting in, and becomes withdrawn to the point where he tries to make himself invisible. Nora is a woman whom the other mothers steer clear from at first. She's a woman who doesn't appear to raise her children in a conventional way. She's also a woman who will take romance regardless of the form when she starts having an affair with a seventeen-year-old neighbor, Ace McCarthy.
This story isn't just about Nora being dejected, as well as her kids, by a whole neighborhood, and then later accepted. No, it's also about the neighbors: The McCarthy boys, Ace and Jackie, who can't seem to stay out of trouble. It's about the cop, Joe Hennessy, who lives across the street from Nora with his wife, Ellen, and boy, Stevie, who likes to torture Nora's son, Billy, in school.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By B. Case TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
"Seventh Heaven" by Alice Hoffman is a most unusual coming-of-age tale. Here, it is not just one youth who matures into self-discovery and understanding, but a whole community of neighbors--children, adolescents, and adults. The catalyst comes in the form of Nora Silk, a vibrant, independent, freethinking divorcee who moves into the neighborhood with her two young sons. Twenty months later, everything and everybody has changed.

Don't expect detailed character development--there are far too many characters in this novel for that. This work is more like a collection of interlocking short stories than a traditional novel. But this is Alice Hoffman writing so, trust me, you will not feel shortchanged. Her characters are spot-on perfect--so credible, they practically bleed off the page. With just a few deft words, she can capture an emotion, a life, emptiness, a dream, and make you feel that person's essence. It's uncanny, magical--it's Alice Hoffman. Clearly, I love this author!

The whole plot takes place in a mere 20 months. It is 1959 in the suburbs of New Jersey. This is a time way before the women's movement. This is like Pleasantville, U.S.A. From the first moment they see her, the neighbors know that Nora Silk doesn't fit in. She wears tight pants and high heel shoes. Her house is untidy, her kids unkempt. She runs her household, holds down a job, and does all the manly fix-it jobs around the house...and she acts as if all this were perfectly normal. From the very beginning, all the mothers in the neighborhood give her the cold shoulder, but the husbands can't keep their eyes off of her. Naturally, this doesn't help the situation. The children take cues from their mothers and start taunting and bullying Nora's third grade son, Billy.
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