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Skylight Confessions: A Novel Hardcover – January 11, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Hoffman's 19th novel, a young woman becomes the victim of the destiny she's created, leaving behind a splintered family. On the day of her father's funeral, 17-year-old Arlyn Singer decides the first man who walks down the street will be her one love. That night, Yale senior John Moody stops to ask directions, and Arlyn and John take the first passionate steps toward what will become a marriage of heartache and mutual betrayal. After John's architect father dies, the couple moves into his Connecticut home, a glass house called the Glass Slipper, and Arlyn has an affair with a local laborer. She dies while her second child is still young, and the story forks to follow the divergent paths taken by the Moody children. Sam, the self-destructive first-born, spray paints his angst all over lower Manhattan and has a son before disappearing. Blanca, Sam's sister and the only family member he loves, moves to London and opens a bookstore. John remarries, to Cynthia, and has another daughter, but carries a family secret with him to his grave. Ghostly apparitions lend an air of dark enchantment, though the numerous dream sequences feel heavy-handed. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

Hoffman works with her own private deck of tarot cards to create psychologically rich, mystical tales infused with a sexy form of magic realism sprung from the union of romance and tragedy. In her latest gothic fairy tale of doomed passion and indelible guilt, Arlyn, 17, is utterly alone in the world until, like a mermaid casting her spell over a lost sailor, she pulls John Moody into her orbit and refuses to let go. A student at Yale, he is the lackluster son of an architect famous for building a Connecticut house known as the Glass Slipper. In a sinister variation on the nursery rhyme about the woman who lived in a shoe, the mismatched couple dwell precariously in the comfortless glass mansion with their solemn son, Sam, and, later, a daughter, Blanca, who isn't even a year old when cancer claims Arlyn. But death doesn't dispel Arlyn's powers. As birds inexplicitly flock to the Glass Slipper, dishes break without being touched, and soot rains down, Sam, a promising artist, loses his way in a labyrinth of narcotics, even as help arrives in the form of a young woman also haunted by her dead. Hoffman's shimmering, multigenerational melodrama bewitches with supernatural imagery. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (January 11, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316058785
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316058780
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,837,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Ellen Meister on February 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Once again, Alice Hoffman manages to create an otherworldly reality that feels completely grounded, with characters so touching and authentic they got right under my skin and stayed there. Other reviewers have done a good job of summarizing the plot, so I'll just say that this book has an unusual structure in that the protagonist changes somewhere in the middle, and it works. This is, more anything, a story that explores the idea of destiny, and asks questions about love along the way. Of course, Hoffman pulls all of this off with language so precise and beautiful my heart melted in my chest.

--Ellen Meister, author of Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Terri Rowan on January 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
After her father's death, Arlyn Singer follows what she believes to be her destiny and weds John Moody. Completely mismatched, they wade through marriage and early parenthood, sometimes just barely keeping it together.

A devastating disease tears the family apart, leaving John to parent his troubled son and baby girl in a literal house of glass. Life moves on with a new wife and the help of a nanny. Yes, life moves on. But it isn't easy, as three generations of this family discover.

Hoffman's generational tale follows the paths taken by Arlyn's family. Each member faces what it means to live in the "Glass Slipper" house and beyond. It follows the family's potential devolution as Sam's brilliance is sucked away through drugs and alcohol, and Blanca is driven away by forces she hardly understands. As heartbreaking as it is hopeful, many layers of depth can be found buried in these pages.

Numerous point-of-view shifts make some scenes hard to follow, but this is otherwise a very readable novel. SKYLIGHT CONFESSIONS will speak to anyone fascinated by family structure and the human spirit.

Reviewed by Christina Wantz Fixemer

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By PamBakNJ VINE VOICE on April 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Like many people have written here, I'm a huge fan of Alice Hoffman but I found this book to be disappointing. It started off very strong and I thought it was a page turner. However, it turned into a drag of a story and much too depressing and without merit. The story of the son was just maudlin and I felt, totally unrealistic. I was waiting for more magic and more life but I found this tale to be a dying story. It's like it started with so much hope but just failed to deliver, in my opinion. Alice Hoffman, we will wait with great expectations for more of your old charm.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on February 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
On his way to a house party on Long Island, Yale architecture student John Moody loses his bearings. When he stops at an anonymous house to ask for directions, he has no idea that it is a house in mourning --- or that the young woman he meets there is destined to haunt him for the rest of his life.

Arlyn Singer is 17, unconventionally beautiful with long red hair and freckles that blanket her luminous skin. The night John Moody arrives, Arlyn is grieving the recent death of her father, waiting for what comes next: "She had convinced herself that her future would arrive on the street where she'd lived her whole life if only she'd wait long enough. If she trusted in fate." Trusting, waiting, expecting --- when John Moody pulls up and asks for directions, he has no idea of the weight of Arlyn's expectations for him, or the extent to which this one chance encounter will shape his future.

That night, though, utterly convinced that John Moody is her destiny, Arlyn seduces the pragmatic young man. And the rest, as they say, is history. Family history, that is, as the two inevitably marry and have a son, Sam, a troublingly morose child whose odd obsessions disturb everyone except Sam's doting mother. As for John, he grows increasingly distant from Arlyn and Sam, throwing himself into his work, convinced that Arlyn, a woman so unlike whom he had always imagined for himself, has somehow bewitched him into a life he was never meant to have. Soon, Arlyn is also convinced that her belief in destiny was wrong, and she finds comfort in the arms of another man.

However, Arlyn's brief taste of true love is not to last. In her mid-20s, having just given birth to her second child, Arlyn develops breast cancer and dies.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Gayla M. Collins VINE VOICE on November 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As an avid fan of Alice Hoffman and her "magic realism" I order her books hardcover I am so sure of their enjoyment. I know the prose will be a lyrical, colorful, elegant and memorizing while tackling dark issues. I know I will be utterly consumed and unable to read just a bit here and there. I know I will come away pondering and appreciating the read for all it's beauty and ugliness. "Skylight Confessions" did NOT let me down.

Based on the premise of do we destine our fate or is it predestined for us, this story starts with Arlyn and John Moody and a marriage that both forced into being. From this union a prodigy of unhappiness, discontentment and violence explodes. Indeed dark subject matter, it is beautifully projected in what may be or not be. Are their specters? If so then is there presence to revenge or guide? Is there true evil? Are the sins of the father visited upon the sons or are the sons excused by the sin? Is destiny fated or do our decisions determine our future? Are we responsible for our actions or are we forced to play them out to their appointed destiny?

I read this book in an evening and into the wee hours as I could not put it down. Hoffman's lyrical prose tenderizes the rough grist of a story told with raw realism as well as magical. Her conjectures open the mind of the reader to introspection without imposing her own dogma.

A magnificent read that exercises mentally as well as entertains with liquid prose.
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