At Home Anywhere

( 12 )

Overview

"I admire At Home Anywhere for its complex characters revealed layer by layer, the story arcs moving naturally toward satisfying conclusions that still manage to surprise, the consistently mature narrative voice, and the lovely but unobtrusive turns of phrase."—Leif Enger

This collection, a Many Voices Project winner, dazzles quietly, like the work of Alice Munro or Carol Shields, by drawing readers into the lives of characters trapped by unemployment, cultural disorientation, ...

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At Home Anywhere

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Overview

"I admire At Home Anywhere for its complex characters revealed layer by layer, the story arcs moving naturally toward satisfying conclusions that still manage to surprise, the consistently mature narrative voice, and the lovely but unobtrusive turns of phrase."—Leif Enger

This collection, a Many Voices Project winner, dazzles quietly, like the work of Alice Munro or Carol Shields, by drawing readers into the lives of characters trapped by unemployment, cultural disorientation, and family conflict. Like high-wire performers, they teeter precariously and vividly on the brink of disaster, but get their chance to survive, if they can just face reality.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780898232509
  • Publisher: New Rivers Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2010
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

"The characters in At Home Anywhere are citizens of the world in their imaginations, but when they attempt to embrace other cultures, they come smack against their own impenetrable borders. A down-and-out welfare applicant uses a beautiful Russian girl to complete his descent. A settled New Yorker sates his longing for exoticism at a family-run Pakistani store – until the owner asks him for help. Mary Hoffman has much to say about a central tension of this post-9/11 age: how to maintain an open heart and mind in a climate of constant vigilance and fear. As these thoughtful stories demonstrate, to be at home anywhere is, in these times, to be at peace nowhere."---Barbara Klein Moss, author of Little Edens

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Flat Earth Society Moths At Home Anywhere Felix and Adauctus

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 12 )
Rating Distribution

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(9)

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 7, 2011

    Delightful!

    Mary Hoffman's At Home Anywhere is a collection of four short stories that focus mainly on a central character and the way he or she views the world and its complexities. As a whole, the stories complement each other nicely. Hoffman does an excellent job of varying the pace, style, and characterization of each story and yet still manages to maintain a thread of "home" throughout the compilation.

    All four stories are deal with internal thoughts and struggles, and focus on each character's development and decisions they face. Bill, Katherine, Douglas, and Paul are all ordinary people who find themselves in plausible situations that demand some kind of action. Bill confronts the prospect of applying for welfare. Katherine reexamines her failed marriage after learning of her ex-husband's mental deterioration. Douglas endeavors to understand his attraction to multiculturalism during the preface and aftermath of 9/11. Paul appraises the role he is filling in lives of those around him and wonders about his own happiness.

    Hoffman's writing is believable. After finishing the book, it makes perfect sense to assume that Bill, the protagonist in Flat Earth Society, is actually telling his story - not Hoffman. The same goes for Katherine in Moths, Douglas in At Home Anywhere, and Paul in Felix and Adauctus. Each protagonist is distinctly different from the others; they are not cookie cutter characters or taken from a surefire formula from a writer's manual. Their thoughts and reactions to their surroundings are unpredictable and surprising. Her characters are not perfect, moral examples of humanity, nor are they sordidly corrupt. Instead, they all have their own mix of flaws and admirable characteristics that slowly surface as the reader turns the pages. Instead, as the stories unfold, their characters slowly develop and surprise the reader with their candid interpretations of their homes.

    The stories vary in length and style. Flat Earth Society's development seems the weakest in the quartet, but it utilizes present tense and feels very honest and personable. The stories grow stronger as they progress, gaining footing as they go and becomes more accessible and focused as they continue on their topics.

    Hoffman's characters wrestle with the life choices they made leading up to their journey of self-discovery and decision-making. They find themselves in unhappy situations in as they look at their journeys through life: "'You'd be at home anywhere.' [Douglas] remembered how pleased he'd been to hear his mother's recognition of...what? The pleasure he took in entertaining the possibility of living a life unlike his own. An empty boast, when now there was nowhere he wanted to go" (54). As each protagonist copes with the challenging results of different insecurities, hopes, and reactions to their varied environments, Hoffman carefully interweaves the theme of being comfortable with oneself, no matter the location or condition.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 25, 2011

    Not worth the time.

    At Home Anywhere by Mary Hoffman was the winner of the Many Voices Project conducted by the New Rivers Press. With that acclaim in mind, it should have been a more interesting read. I found the story slow and difficult to engage in. The font was childish, but the stories took on adult struggles. This added to my inner conflict while reading the book, on whether to give up and try another day, or to just struggle through it. It is a short book, only 114 pages, but proved to be a long read.
    The story, upon which the book gets it's title At Home Anywhere, follows a man named Douglas who is on the search for a cultural identity. He finds a small Arabic shop and enjoys it's quaint and genuine atmosphere until the catastrophe on 9/11 takes place and he is suddenly torn internally about whether he should support the small business or give into the post-9/11 cultural distrust with the Arabic people. He also worries whether or not he will be considered a 'terrorist sympathizer.' "At that point it struck him that the store might have been under surveillance before 9/11. His visits to the shop and his friendly relations with the owner and his sons might already have been observed," (47).
    Those types of inner-turmoil are consistent throughout the four stories found in At Home Anywhere; each one discussing different aspects of a general cultural disconnect among different groups of people. Personally, I find it hard to recommend this book to anyone as it proved to be a frustrating read for me.

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  • Posted April 19, 2011

    Unique

    At Home Anywhere is a collection of four short stories by Mary Hoffman. The book is self-titled after the third short story, which is very fitting. Each of the stories has different characters all facing their own hardships. Coming from different backgrounds, the characters still seem to have a connection through their hardships. This creates a wonderful flow to the book, as well as begs the reader to sense that every person has their own battles in life which make it difficult to always understand others around us. Although the start of the book is slow, the reader is easily swept into Hoffman's ease of writing. Before the reader recognizes it, they are placed in the characters' shoes and in a small way able to sense how the character feels. Hoffman's writing style is unique and for lack of a better word, refreshing. Within these four short stories the reader is still able to 'fit right in' to the imaginations each character. The characters all have distinct yet realistic personalities. Hoffman did a wonderful job of recognizing our societies' continuous struggle to accept one another. In a world overwhelmed by different cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles, there is still a lack of understanding, which begs the question, why? The battle against others who are different is a losing one, so why waste time fighting it? My favorite of the collection is the short story, At Home Anywhere, maybe because the story reflects on the aftermath of 9/11, and brought back the memories of sitting in a high school classroom and watching in disbelief as the event unfolded.

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  • Posted April 19, 2011

    A good read

    "At Home Anywhere" by Mary Hoffman is a collection of four short stories that each follows a different individual character that's dealing with a large crisis or disaster, but the real dilemmas that these characters face come from within. The adversities that face each character range from homosexuality, economic well-being, Hurricane Katrina, and 9/11. The interesting thing about this collection of stories lies in the characters that star in each story. It's remarkable how well Hoffman transitions a universal meaning through four characters that on the surface, are very different from each , and very different from the average protagonist that seem a dime a dozen in most short stories or novels that I have read. Each of the four protagonists feels very real, and it's amazing how much I was able to identify with each character on some level even though each of these characters is quite different from me. Of all of these stories, the one that impacted me most was "Flat Earth Society." "Flat Earth Society" dives into the mind of Bill, a man who is seeking financial aid (welfare) from the government, but doesn't consider himself to be like the people who too receive the service. The story can definitely make some readers analyze how they would feel if they ever were faced with a similar situation like Bill's, especially if they've never received any type of financial aid. Personally, I've never received any type of financial aid, nor has my family. It's easy for me to imagine the panic and the helplessness that someone would feel if they were forced to take this dark route in life. It was great to experience this through the eyes of someone else instead of falling into hard times myself, and possibly experiencing what this character went through. For me, this story tackled something very real and possible in light of the current economic situation that our nation is in. This story in particular was the one that impacted me most, but there is a plethora of different themes and ideas that most readers should be able to identify with. Overall, this story tied together very well and kept with a theme of home. The title is very appropriate and I would suggest this story to my friends. Four out of five stars!

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  • Posted April 18, 2011

    Compelling stories

    "At Home Anywhere" is a collection of four short stories by Mary Hoffman. Each story has not just an impact on us as readers, but on our whole society. Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, Alzheimer's disease, and homosexuality are the topics of each individual story, and she tackles each story in a way that they are all very believable and relatable, though I wasn't involved in Katrina or 9/11, I don't have Alzheimer's nor am I a homosexual. Yet as I read through, I felt a connection to each main character.
    Physical descriptions and those of characters are seemingly nonexistent in these stories. However, the description of each person's internal struggle is well done and succeeds in carrying the story with next to no other physical descriptions. The main characters of these four stories are unconnected in any way, other than the fact that each one has a struggle to overcome. Each character has a strong voice, which is an accomplishment in itself.
    One of my favorite aspects of this book is a subtle one. Hoffman had a script-y, handwritten title at the top of each page to show what story you were reading at the time. I felt it was there as an added touch to remind me, as the reader, that I was reading personal stories about someone's life. With that being said, the rest of the design of this book isn't as good as the actual book itself. While I do like the idea of a handwritten typeface, it is not as aesthetically pleasing as it could be for the cover of the book. It kind of attacks an otherwise nice cover.
    Overall, this book was a great read with some very compelling stories. Each story tells of a struggle that many people in America or in the world deal with every day. It is definitely worth the read.

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  • Posted April 18, 2011

    Not at Home Yet

    It is tempting to call "At Home Anywhere" a fitting title for this book. In part, the impulse arises because any reader should desire to connect such a name to some central theme, and nothing could be more natural. But for Mary Hoffman's most recent collection of short stories, the title is nothing short of adequate irony. Despite Hoffman's own obvious awareness of American multiculturalism, her principle characters all struggle with reservations of trust and creeping presumptions about people of foreign descent. This is, above all, what every story examines - and in a refreshing fashion, Hoffman does not sugar-coat the divisions that exist between cultures, even when all individuals are American citizens. Tragically, no character in any of the narratives is truly "at home anywhere." In the story that bears the book's namesake, an average upper-middle-class husband finds his superficial fascination with Islam challenged by his own post-9/11 paranoia. "Flat Earth Society" plumbs the mind of Bill, a deeply prejudiced welfare applicant who fails to see his financial dependence as equal to the people around him. More subtly, "Moths" explores a woman's obsession with her own repute among temporary Indonesian servants. Ultimately, these characters do not choose to understand much beyond their own self interest - and strangely, this instills their stories with authenticity, if not satisfaction. To those looking for comfort in the wake of the book's great national tragedies - 9/11, Katrina, and so forth - Hoffman is largely unapologetic, as she has every right to be. Instead, she seeks to provoke introspection, and each story offers a psychological assessment that is difficult to ignore. What if I, the reader, exhibit these very same presumptions? Are they even possible to correct? Alas, if this author is successful in her goal, we may begin to question our own preconceptions and biases, some of which we would rather not consider at all. It may be fair to say that Hoffman's world is not for the faint of mind - no candy-land of universal tolerance is waiting just around the bend, but neither is it waiting in the real world. With all that we read on the news every day, "At Home Anywhere" might challenge you, or simply serve to annoy. I've heard worse about good literature.

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  • Posted April 18, 2011

    Some good, some bad.

    Viewing the book overall, there are several consistent features:
    .The titles lack a solid connection to their stories; it's never clear how exactly, if at all, the title relates to the story beyond a mention either in dialog or narration.
    .There is a distinct lack of physical description, particularly of characters, but also of the environment in general, however, this is not a problem due to the nature of the stories in the collection.
    .Said nature is that of internal self-examination, all of the conflict in the stories arises from anxiety we see in the main characters of each tale.

    Looking at each story individually:
    -Flat Earth Society: A solid story to open the collection with; it displays the talent Hoffman has for creating and displaying the minds, motivations and thoughts of the characters to make them seem very real. However, the main character becomes muddled and difficult to follow near the end, particularly after the mention of Anastasia. There's a distinct loss of focus in the character, particularly his motivation and thoughts, which makes the ending difficult to follow.

    -Moths: The main character of this story is well-made and interesting, and Hoffman does well in segueing from present to past and back again-it never feels abrupt or broken. The meeting of cultures also feels authentic and believable. However, it had perhaps the most unclear ending in the thoughts of its main character, and because of that, it's difficult to get a good grasp on any ultimate meaning in the story.

    -At home anywhere: This story contains the same type of psychological self-examination as all the other stories, and also contains the most tension of all the stories as well in its later part. It also contains a meeting between cultures that seem very believable. Its ending is also the most finished-that is, itfeels the most complete-in the whole collection as well.

    -Felix and Adauctus: All of the stories in this collection are mundane in nature, involved with the internal struggles of people rather than the external, but Felix and Adauctus' greater length results in a longer time to reach the tensions/conflicts of the story, and so the reading for a good part of the story feels like a chore being done to reach the conflicts. Also, the more complex plotline of the main character in Felix and Adauctus is a trouble to the story because it lacks the same intense focus on the psychological tensions of the main character as the other stories in their main characters. The tensions are there, but the lengthier plot also results in a far greater variety of different tensions than any other story in the collection. The length of the story in combination with these multiple tensions results in less impact received from each conflict-the psychological self-inquiry and doubt found in the other stories isn't as strong, and so the story as a whole does not feel as catching or powerful in emotions.

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  • Posted March 28, 2011

    Culturally Aware and Worth the Read

    The title of Mary Hoffman's "At Home Anywhere" is quite suiting. The book depicts the lives of four different people with all different backgrounds, though each seems to be connected through their own hardships. Whether the background is cultural, ethnic, or class related, each story has its own personality just as the characters within the story do. Each character is wonderfully portrayed and the reader learns more about each one with each turn of the page. Hoffman's personal voice in the stories and her attention to detail allows all readers to fully understand and connect with these characters on a personal level. The reader knows what it's like to stand in line for Welfare, deal with Alzheimer's, lose faith after the 9/11 attacks, or to be gay, even if they aren't impacted by these things in their personal, everyday lives. The reader, in a sense, lives the lives of each character. Even the cover and the layout of the book are enough to make the reader drawn to it. The cover shows an open house which can symbolize that a home can be more than just you and can hold people from all walks of life, while the title is hand-written which makes the book feel more personal; that there is someone inside of this book. At the top of every page, the same handwriting shows which story the reader is on at any given time, which gives readers the confirmation that this isn't just a book, but something more personal. Personality is a running theme in this book whether it's the layout or the characters held within. Hoffman was able to create a spectacular book that puts a new twist on the word "culture". Definitely worth the read.

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  • Posted March 25, 2011

    Worth the read.

    "At Home Anywhere" by Mary Hoffman is a collection of short stories depicting people from various backgrounds and cultures and their response to their the situations that surround them. A quote from the back cover sums it up well; "'At Home Anywhere' celebrates common human experience and the daily confrontations between reason and passion."
    Hoffman allows readers to live in each fully completed story full of vibrant characters facing situations that the reader can relate to on different levels. Instead of getting caught up on a story line that lasts throughout the whole book, readers of "At Home Anywhere" are allowed to experience the stories and lives of four different societies, cultures and peoples.
    The cover of the book is unique in its simplicity. Comprised of black and white only, an outline of a house is half drawn as to show that home is open - we are to finish the picture ourselves through the lives of the stories inside. The title is in a hand writing font with no capitalization, giving the tone a casual feel from the start. Hoffman's name is under the title and that's all there is to the cover - aesthetically pleasing.
    The font of the text is terribly offsetting to the design of the cover. Typed in sans serif, the font feels heavy and uninviting. With small margines, the pages hold too much text that will be sure to turn people off.
    Overall, the book is worth the read with good content. The design, however, leaves some to be desired.

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  • Posted March 21, 2011

    Review

    Mary Hoffman assembled a collection of four short stories in her book, "At Home Anywhere." Each story focuses on a central character and follows them through their thoughts and dialogue. Hoffman has done an excellent job giving each of these characters their own unique voice, making them attractive and easy to believe.

    The first story, "Flat Earth Society," shows the reader Bill Roubideau's thoughts as he waits in line for Welfare. He seems like a harmless, aging, prejudiced man, but in the end, he shows us he is still not afraid to cause trouble in order to get the excitement that he needs. The background information is brief, but meaningful, giving the reader a good understanding of how Roubideau behaves - a man having a hard time accepting other cultures. There are not many lines of dialogue and most of the information is given through the character's thoughts. Hoffman's third-person presentation makes the story easy to read and understand.

    The next story is titled "Moths." This story was not as likable as the first, because I can imagine how the main character, Katherine, feels. Katherine is a woman who is reflecting on her past relationships with her servant in Indonesia and her ex-husband. She cannot remember her servant's name, and her ex-husband David is in town to visit a doctor. David might have Alzheimer's Disease. Katherine's story is sad.

    Hoffman continues to write about culture in the third story, "At Home Anywhere." The story talks about a man, Douglas, who is comfortable with many other cultures. His conflict begins after 9/11 terrorist attacks. He loses his faith or trust in other cultures.

    The final story is "Felix and Adauctus," which follows Paul and his experiences in the house that he lives. Paul has a complex personality and the various characters who live with him give the reader a look into his complicated life. Hoffman did a good job developing her characters and making each story different.

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  • Posted February 28, 2011

    A Really Good Book

    A collection of four multi-cultural short stories about four different society impacts or relations. Mary Hoffman's "At Home Anywhere" takes you into a life of four different situations and shares how each person dealt with their current situation. Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, Alzheimer's and being gay in a society that still frowned upon stuff like that. But in reading her stories she takes you into the minds of each character and each like. You can't help but feel what they feel, happy, sad, joy, and pain in each step of their lives. Hoffman does a wonderful job of creating a realistic view in the diversity of today's society.
    Her first short story called, "Flat Earth Society" is about a 56 year old man who after hurricane Katrina found himself in welfare and struggling to make ends meet. He recounts previous events that led him to the welfare and shares his opinions on all the other hopeful people we encounter while waiting for the answers. The diversity we see shows us that everyone is struggling, not only the unfortunate.
    Although her first story showed more of a comical aspect all her stories show a wide range of emotions. For example in "Felix and Adauctus" it's a little more serious but it completes the story perfectly. Or in "At Home Anywhere" you get a sense of hope, failure and the uneasiness that follows something life alternating like 9/11. Where in "moths" it's almost like a sense of sadness of wishing things were like they used to be.
    All these stories have different voices and Hoffman makes each one heard, yet in the end is able to tie them together perfectly where they just belong and make you feel at home.

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  • Posted February 7, 2011

    Great book from New Rivers press by Hoffman

    "At Home Anywhere", a collection of short stories by Mary Hoffman, helped me to understand cultural diversities. The author combined stories from all sorts' of life. Being a woman doesn't bias her to see things only from women's perspectives. She wrote the stories from both male and female perspectives.
    The characters in the stories tried hard to overcome the problems they faced. The characters left their cultures and experienced new cultures. On their journey, they faced different obstacles that they have to understand and tolerate.
    The collection contains four interesting stories. The final story is longer than the others, but all the stories connected to each other. The stories have continuous flaw. This helps me to read through the book without stopping. In the third story, the protagonist, Douglas, searches the streets of New York City for something "authentic," which he cannot find in the big stores. On the other hand Bill looked for authentic people. Bill went to grocery store. He learned whether the Arab man is capable of doing terrorist attack by the money he got from the store. What the character faced is what we encounter every day. Americans experienced it especially in the last few decades.
    "At Home Anywhere" is a story of characters who are worried in case if they got trouble when they travelled longer than where they have gone so far. They are skeptical if the world might be different from they expected because they didn't understand the difference between cultures is its beauty. They haven't recognized that there are also differences between individuals of the same kind.
    The book is great for people interested in modern fiction. The stories in "At Home Anywhere" reveal the complexity of the human mind and the impacts of small events in one's life. The characters can be related to everyday people we see in the world.

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