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Hoffman Enchants Again
on March 6, 2002
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!