Blue Diary

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Overview

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Dovekeepers, a New York Times Bestseller and Notable Book.

The courage to face the unthinkable is at the core of this magnificent new novel. How do we manage to confront the truths in our lives and find forgiveness in the most unforgiving of circumstances? How do we love truly and deeply in a world that is as brutal as it is beautiful?

When Ethan Ford fails to show up for work on a ...

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Blue Diary

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Overview

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Dovekeepers, a New York Times Bestseller and Notable Book.

The courage to face the unthinkable is at the core of this magnificent new novel. How do we manage to confront the truths in our lives and find forgiveness in the most unforgiving of circumstances? How do we love truly and deeply in a world that is as brutal as it is beautiful?

When Ethan Ford fails to show up for work on a brilliant summer morning, none of his neighbors would guess that for more than thirteen years, he has been running from his past. His true nature has been locked away, as hidden as his real identity. But sometimes locks spring open, and the devastating truths of Ethan Ford's history shatter the small-town peace of Monroe, affecting family and friends alike.

This deeply felt and compelling novel makes it clear why Alice Hoffman has been called "one of the best writers we have today" (Cleveland Plain Dealer). Honest, shattering, seductive, and ultimately healing, Blue Diary is an unforgettable novel by a writer who tells "truths powerful enough to break a reader's heart" (Time).

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Editorial Reviews

Susan Isaacs
With her glorious prose and extraordinary eye, Alice Hoffman seems to know what it means to be human.
Newsday
San Francisco Chronicle
A complex and haunting story of how human beings transform themselves not because of their wants but in spite of them.
New York Times Book Review
The drama is so propulsive, you sense a little bit of glee in Hoffman's tearing down of the gingerbread house she has built.
Entertainment Weekly
Alice Hoffman draws her characters with great care.
Newark Star-Ledger
[Hoffman] has long been one of the major talents in contemporary literature. —2001)
Kirkus Reviews
A small-town hero with a criminal past raises unsettling questions about guilt and trust, in this unsparing new novel by Hoffman (The River King). Everyone in Monroe, Massachusetts, adores Ethan Ford. He's the town's most reliable contractor, a supportive Little League coach, and a life-saving member of the volunteer fire department. He and his wife of 13 years, Jorie, are still so in love that they've tumbled back into bed on the June morning when the local sheriff rings the bell to arrest him on a 15-year-old murder charge. Ethan freely admits it. "The way he sees it the truth is a simple thing: He is not the same man any more." The self-obsessed, violent drifter who raped and killed Rachel Morris became another person after that night, asserts Ethan, and enough people in Monroe agree to form an ardent defense committee, including sexy Rosarie Williams, casual breaker of teenage boys' hearts, who thinks Ethan is her dream lover. But Rosarie's 12-year-old sister, Kat, who recognized Ethan's photo on TV and turned him in, is not the only person who thinks guilt can't be shed so easily. His son, Collie, doesn't even want to see him, and Jorie reels from the knowledge that her life has been founded on a lie. When she goes to Maryland to confront what Ethan did, the victim's bitter younger brother reminds her, "My sister never had the chance to be a different woman" and gives her Rachel's blue diary to drive home his point. Ethan's claims of repentance and redemption come to seem much too glib as Hoffman skillfully spins a disciplined narrative (the whimsy and the descriptions of nature for once held in check) focused on the struggles of Monroe's stunned residents to makesense of this abrupt fissure in their accepted reality. Hopeful developments for the strong supporting characters prevent the story from seeming entirely grim, but the final decisions made by Jorie and others suggest that forgiveness should not be lightly given—or requested. A welcome return to top form by a gifted, popular author.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425184943
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/6/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 379,971
  • Product dimensions: 5.22 (w) x 8.08 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Alice Hoffman is the author of fifteen novels: Blue Diary (2001), The River King (2000), Local Girls (1999), Here On Earth (1997), Practical Magic (1995), Second Nature (1994), Turtle Moon (1992), Seventh Heaven (1990), At Risk (1988), Illumination Night (1987), Fortune's Daughter (1985), White Horses (1982), Angel Landing (1980), The Drowning Season (1979), and Property Of (1977). She is also the author of three children's books: Aquamarine (2001), Horsefly (2000), and Fireflies (1997).

Born in New York City, and raised on Long Island, Hoffman graduated from Adelphi University and received an M.A. from Stanford University, where she was Mirrielees Fellow. She currently lives near Boston with her family and her dogs.

Biography

Born in the 1950s to college-educated parents who divorced when she was young, Alice Hoffman was raised by her single, working mother in a blue-collar Long Island neighborhood. Although she felt like an outsider growing up, she discovered that these feelings of not quite belonging positioned her uniquely to observe people from a distance. Later, she would hone this viewpoint in stories that captured the full intensity of the human experience.

After high school, Hoffman went to work for the Doubleday factory in Garden City. But the eight-hour, supervised workday was not for her, and she quit before lunch on her first day! She enrolled in night school at Adelphi University, graduating in 1971 with a degree in English. She went on to attend Stanford University's Creative Writing Center on a Mirrellees Fellowship. Her mentor at Stanford, the great teacher and novelist Albert Guerard, helped to get her first story published in the literary magazine Fiction. The story attracted the attention of legendary editor Ted Solotaroff, who asked if she had written any longer fiction. She hadn't -- but immediately set to work. In 1977, when Hoffman was 25, her first novel, Property Of, was published to great fanfare.

Since that remarkable debut, Hoffman has carved herself a unique niche in American fiction. A favorite with teens as well as adults, she renders life's deepest mysteries immediately understandable in stories suffused with magic realism and a dreamy, fairy-tale sensibility. (In a 1994 article for The New York Times, interviewer Ruth Reichl described the magic in Hoffman's books as a casual, regular occurrence -- "...so offhand that even the most skeptical reader can accept it.") Her characters' lives are transformed by uncontrollable forces -- love and loss, sorrow and bliss, danger and death.

Hoffman's 1997 novel Here on Earth was selected as an Oprah Book Club pick, but even without Winfrey's powerful endorsement, her books have become huge bestsellers -- including three that have been adapted for the movies: Practical Magic (1995), The River King (2000), and her YA fable Aquamarine (2001).

Hoffman is a breast cancer survivor; and like many people who consider themselves blessed with luck, she believes strongly in giving back. For this reason, she donated her advance from her 1999 short story collection Local Girls to help create the Hoffman Breast Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA.

Good To Know

  • Hoffman has written a number of children's books, including Fireflies: A Winter's Tale(1999), Horsefly (2000), and Moondog (2004).

  • Aquamarine was written for Hoffman's best friend, Jo Ann, who dreamed of the freedom of mermaids as she battled brain cancer.

  • Here on Earth is a modern version of Hoffman's favorite novel, Wuthering Heights.

  • Hoffman has been honored with the Massachusetts Book Award for her teen novel Incantation.
  • Read More Show Less
      1. Hometown:
        Boston, Massachusetts
      1. Date of Birth:
        March 16, 1952
      2. Place of Birth:
        New York, New York
      1. Education:
        B.A., Adelphi University, 1973; M.A., Stanford University, 1974
      2. Website:

    Read an Excerpt

    Chapter 1: The Hanged Man

    It's the last Monday of the month, a brutally gorgeous morning brimming with blue air and the sweet scent of honeysuckle which grows wild in the woods beyond Front Street, when Ethan Ford fails to show up for work. On this glorious day, the brilliant sky is filled with banks of motionless white clouds, fleecy as sheep, but so obedient and lazy they haven't any need of a shepherd or a fence. June in New England is a peerless month, with long days of glittering sunlight and roses unfolding. This is the season when even the most foolish of men will stop to appreciate all that is set out before him: the creamy blossoms of hollyhocks and English daisies; the heavenly swarms of bees humming like angels in the hedges, hovering over green lawns trimmed so carefully it can seem as though the hand of all that's divine has leaned down to construct a perfect patchwork, green upon green, perfection upon perfection.

    On any other day, Ethan Ford would have already been hard at work, for in the town of Monroe, Massachusetts there is not a more reliable man to be found. On the chain that he carries, he has the keys to many of the local houses, including the Howards' on Sherwood Street and the Starks' over on Evergreen. For the better part of a month, Ethan has been remodeling both homes, renovating a kitchen for the Howards, installing a second bathroom for the Starks, a family whose three daughters are known for their waist-length hair, which takes half an hour to shampoo, so that there is always a line in the hall as one or another of the Stark girls awaits her turn at the shower.

    Everyone knows that if Ethan promises a job will be done on time, it will be, for he's a man of his word, as dependable as he is kind, the sort of individual who never disappears with the last ten percent of a project left undone, tiles left ungrouted, for instance, or closet doors unhung. He's an excellent carpenter, an excellent man all around; a valued member of the volunteer fire department well known for his fearlessness, a respected coach who offers more encouragement to some local children than their own parents do. Most folks who know him would not have thought any less of him had they been aware that on this day Ethan doesn't show up for work because he's in bed with his wife, whom he loves desperately, even after thirteen years of marriage, and whom he still considers to be the most beautiful woman in the Commonwealth.

    Jorie had been standing at the sink, washing up the breakfast dishes and staring out the window with a dreamy expression, when Ethan came to get his keys. He took one look at her and decided not to leave, no matter what a mess his schedule might become and how late he'd have to work for the rest of the week. Even the most dependable of men will stumble every now and then, after all. He'll trip over his own shoes, waylaid by bumps in the road or circumstances he never expected; he'll throw off the bonds of both caution and common sense. Fortunately, Jorie and Ethan's son was on his way to school on this Monday of the last week of sixth grade, for there was nothing that could have kept Ethan away from Jorie on this day, not when he felt the way he did. He came up behind her at the sink, and as he'd circled his arms around her and whispered what he planned to do once he took her back to bed, Jorie laughed, the sort of sweet laughter that summoned the sparrows from the trees, so that one after another perched on the windowsill, just to listen, just to be near.

    We shouldn't be doing this, Jorie told him. She began to list the reasons they had to abstain, the many responsibilities facing them on this busy weekday, but even as she spoke, her tone betrayed her. She was already being drawn into the bedroom, diverted by her own desire, and she smiled when her husband locked the door.

    People in town would not have been surprised to know that Ethan bent to kiss his wife then, and that she in turn responded as deeply as she had on the night when she met him, when she was twenty-three and convinced she would never fall in love, not really, not the way she was supposed to, head over heels, crazy and rash, all or nothing at all. It was that way for them both even now, though they had a house and a mortgage and a calendar inky with family obligations, those pot-luck dinners and Little League games, the intricacies of married life. Their union was a miracle of sorts: they had fallen in love and stayed there. Thirteen years after they'd met, it seemed as though only an hour or two had passed since Jorie had spied Ethan at the bar of the Safehouse one foggy November night, minutes after she and her best friend, Charlotte Kite, had set up a wager of ten dollars, the prize to be claimed by whoever found herself a sweetheart that night.

    And now, on this hot June morning, when the sky is so brilliant and blue and the tree frogs in the gardens trill as though they were calling birds, Jorie wants Ethan just as badly as she had on the night she first saw him. She had left her friend Charlotte behind without even the decency of a proper good-bye, which simply wasn't like her. Jorie was as prudent as she was kind-hearted, so much so that when her older sister, Anne, arrived at the Safehouse to see her goody-two-shoes sibling leaving with a stranger, she ran after the truck, signaling for them to slow down; not that they paid Anne the slightest bit of attention or listened to her cries to be careful on the icy roads.

    Jorie gave Ethan directions to her apartment over on High Street, where she brought him into her bed before she knew his full name. Certainly, she had never in her life been as reckless. She was the girl who did everything right and, as Anne would readily complain to anyone willing to listen, had always been their mother's favorite daughter. Jorie was the last one anyone would expect to act on impulse, and yet she was driven by what might have appeared to be a fever. Perhaps this explained why she veered from her normal, reliable behavior and unlocked her door for a stranger on that cold November night. Ethan Ford was the handsomest man she had ever seen, but that wasn't the reason she'd fallen so hard. It was the way he stared at her, as if no one else in the world existed, it was how sure he was they were meant to be together that had won her over so completely and effortlessly. She still feels his desire when he looks at her, and every time she does, she's the same lovestruck girl she was when they met. She's no different than she'd been on the night when he first kissed her, when he vowed he'd always been searching for her.

    Today, Jorie has once again left her poor friend Charlotte in the lurch, with no explanations or apologies. Instead of meeting Charlotte to discuss the final weeks of her marriage to Jay Smith, blessedly over at last, Jorie is kissing her own husband. Instead of offering comfort and advice, she is here with Ethan, pulling him closer until all the world outside, all of Maple Street, all of Massachusetts, might as well have disappeared, every street lamp and apple tree evaporating into the hot and tranquil air. Some people are fortunate, and Jorie has always been among them, with her luminous smile and all that yellow hair that reminds people of sunlight even on the coldest winters day when the wind outside is howling and masses of snow are tumbling down from above.

    Whenever Jorie and Ethan are hand in hand, people in town turn and stare, that's how good they look when they're together, that's how meant for each other they are. On evenings when Jorie comes to the baseball field at dusk, bringing thermoses of lemonade and cool water, Ethan always walks right up to her and kisses her, not caring if all the world looks on. Along the sidelines, people stop what they're doing-the mothers gossiping by the bleachers, the dads in the parking lot discussing what tactics might win them the county championship-they can't take their eyes off Jorie and Ethan, who, unlike most couples who have entered into the harsh and difficult realm of marriage, are still wrapped up in the vast reaches of their own devotion, even now.

    It's therefore no surprise to find them in each other's arms on this June morning, in the season when the first orange lilies bloom along roadsides and lanes. They make love slowly, without bothering to pull down the shades. The sunlight coursing through the open window is lemony and sweet; it leaves a luminous grid on the white sheets and a crisscross of shadow upon their flesh. Next door, Betty Gage, who is nearly eighty and so deaf she can no longer make out the chattering of wrens nesting in her cherry tree or the chirrup of the tree frogs, can all the same hear their lovers' moans. She quickly retreats to her house, doing her best to walk briskly in spite of her bad knees, leaving behind the phlox and daisies she'd begun to gather in a ragged jumble of petals on the lawn. Startled by the strains of so much ardor on an ordinary morning, Mrs. Gage turns her radio to top volume, but even that doesn't drown out those passionate cries, and before long Betty finds herself thinking of her own dear husband, gone for nearly forty years, but still a young man when she dreams of him.

    Later, Jorie will wonder if she hadn't asked for sorrow on this heavenly day. She should have been more cautious. She'd been greedy, renouncing restraint, forsaking all others but the man she loved. Who did she think she was to assume that the morning was hers to keep, tender hours to spend however she pleased? She was thoughtless, indeed, but the bees swarming in the garden seemed to be serenading them, the sunlight was a pale and lasting gold. If only such fleeting moments could continue indefinitely. If only they were cunning enough to trap time and ensure that this day would never alter, and that forevermore there'd be only the constant sunlight pouring in and only the two of them, alone in the world.

    Jorie is not ordinarily prideful, but how can she help but see herself in her husband's eyes? She imagines ancient prehistoric flowers as he moves his hand along her belly, her spine, her shoulders. The flowers appear behind her eyelids, one by one: red lily, wood lily, tawny lily, trout lily, each incomparable in its beauty. She listens to the bees drifting through the hedges outside. If any of the men in town who thought they knew her, the ones she's been acquainted with since high school, for instance, the ones she runs into every day at the bakery or the pharmacy or the bank, were able to look through the window and spy upon her, they would have seen a different woman than the one they chat with on street corners or sit next to on the bleachers at Little League games. They would have seen Jorie with the sunlight streaming over her and heat rising up from her skin. They would have witnessed what true love can do to a woman.

    You are everything to me, Ethan tells her on this morning, and maybe that sentiment was too arrogant and self-absorbed. Assuredly, they were only thinking of themselves, not of their son on his way to school, or the shades they hadn't bothered to close, or the neighbor at her window, listening to the sounds of their desire. They weren't the least bit concerned about the friends they'd kept waiting, Charlotte Kite, who'd already left the bakery for her doctor's appointment, or Mark Derry, the plumber, one of Ethan's closest friends, stranded outside the Starks' house without a key, unable to work without Ethan present to let him in. The phone rings, long and loud, but Ethan tells Jorie not to answer-it's only Charlotte, and Jorie can talk to her anytime. Or it's her sister, Anne, who Jorie is more than happy to avoid.

    How often do we get to do this? Ethan asks. He kisses Jorie's throat and her shoulders, and she doesn't say no, even though it's close to ten o'clock. How can she deny him, or herself for that matter? Love like this isn't easy to find, after all, and sometimes Jorie wonders why she was the one who'd been lucky enough to meet him that night. November in Massachusetts is a despicable and ruinous month, and Charlotte had needed to talk Jorie into going out for a drink. You have your whole life to sit around by yourself, if that's what you want to do, Charlotte had assured her, and so Jorie had grudgingly gone along. She hadn't even bothered to comb her hair or put on lipstick. She'd been there at the bar, already itching to leave, when she felt a wave of energy, the way some people say the air turns crackly before the weather takes a turn, or when a star is about to fall from the sky. She gazed to her left and she happened to see him, and that was when she knew it was destiny that had made her trail along after Charlotte on that damp, foggy night. Fate had led her here.

    —Reprinted from Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman by permission of Berkley, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2002, Alice Hoffman. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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    Interviews & Essays

    Alice Hoffman spoke with us at the beginning of a reading tour to promote Blue Diary, her dark yet ultimately hopeful meditation on the nature of life, the meaning of trust, and how fragile our everyday illusions can be.

    Barnes & Noble.com: It's unusual for you to do a book tour.

    Alice Hoffman: It really is.

    Barnes & Noble.com: How is that going?

    Alice Hoffman: Well, I'm not sure yet. I just started this week. I like meeting my readers, giving readings. I don't like all the other stuff around it -- the planes, and the cars, the traveling, and the hotels. I would prefer to stay home and write. But my publishing company has been so supportive of me for so long -- I think I've been there 20 years. That's a long time to be at Putnam, and I just feel like they've always been really supportive of me, and I wanted to do the same for them.

    Barnes & Noble.com: The conventional wisdom sees author tours as so essential to building a following. According to that kind of thinking, it's amazing you've achieved the success you have without touring.

    Alice Hoffman: Well, I think a lot of that is being at the same house where people really know you and are behind you. But the other thing is -- and I know this happened for me -- it's kind of a word-of-mouth thing, where people tell people… That's the way I've always found out about my favorite writers, from friends. I think in a way that's the Oprah phenomenon -- it's almost the same thing. For people who don't have friends who tell them what to read, Oprah kind of takes that place, and it works.

    Barnes & Noble.com: The world you write about is sort of super-saturated -- with beauty, light, and fragrance; wonderful colors and feelings; fate, significance, and luck; and with equally powerful dark spots and underlying evil. Do you experience the world that way, or is your writing an act of imagination?

    Alice Hoffman: I thought it was imagination, but now that you've asked the question.… It may actually be, in some ways, the way I experience the world. I feel like I'm very raw, and I don't have a sense of it when I'm in the world. So I think it's a rushing and flooding of experience that translates when I sit down to write.

    Barnes & Noble.com: I think your books are essentially optimistic -- about people, about life -- even if they often deal with great tragedies or dark fears. I'm not sure everyone would see them that way. Do you consider yourself an optimist?

    Alice Hoffman: I consider myself an optimist in my work, but not in my life. I'm actually an incredible pessimist, and I feel like one of the reasons I'm writing these books is so that I can tell myself that there's hope.

    Barnes & Noble.com: You must see hope in life, to represent it the way you do.

    Alice Hoffman: I guess so. I'm not conscious of it in my daily life.

    Barnes & Noble.com: Let's talk about the term "magical realism," which has been a huge literary buzzword over the past few years -- in large part due to your own success. People seem to view it as a recent development in fiction. Is it?

    Alice Hoffman: I totally don't think it's a new thing. If anything, it's realism that's the new thing, the oddnick thing. I always feel that magical realism -- going back to the Bible or Greek myths or fairy tales, folk tales -- is more the norm. Somehow it was marginalized for a long time into fantasy and science fiction (which I'm a big fan of) or South American literature. But it's more what literature has always been. I think the Hemingwayesque type of realism seems like the atypical. Realism is a way to try to redefine life as something that's understandable, a way to make a science out of life. I just don't see the world that way.

    Barnes & Noble.com: A notion that surfaces fairly frequently in your books is at the center of this new one. It's the idea that your entire life can change in a second, that you can never really know another person, that our relationships are largely based on simple faith, in spite of everything we might cite as evidence.

    Alice Hoffman: It's definitely the way I see the world. I think it's the way the world is. Some people have a better defense system and are not aware of that all the time. It always amazes me how people have the strength to go on after suffering tremendous loss, tremendous tragedy. It's astounding to me, and I think that's the most miraculous thing of all. That is what this book is about, really.

    Barnes & Noble.com: Two of the main characters -- Jorie, who finds out her husband has a terrible past under a completely different identity, and Charlotte, her best friend -- make opposite journeys in this story. Jorie is rudely awakened to the darker side of life, and Charlotte gradually opens up to the beauty of the world and love, even as she copes with a devastating illness.

    Alice Hoffman: That's totally true. The funny thing is, when I started this book, I thought I was just going to be writing about Jorie, who's the wife of Ethan, the man with this dark secret. But as I started working, I realized she doesn't really know what she thinks. She's waking up. She's in shock. I needed to expand it to include these other people in the town to get a variety of opinions and reactions and judgments. Charlotte is a pessimist; she's had one tragedy after another in her life, and while I was writing, she was diagnosed with cancer -- I didn't expect that to happen in the book -- and she's also kind of the romantic heroine. Her story is a love story. At one point I thought about getting rid of Charlotte. It seemed like there was too much of her. I really considered it, but I thought it would be an out-of-skew world vision for me if she weren't there. It would be only darkness. She's about all the different possibilities that, even under the worst circumstances, are still possible.

    Barnes & Noble.com: Many of the people in the town are waking up to harsh realities, but they seem to come out of it stronger, with a firmer core, a happier existence in some ways.

    Alice Hoffman: I think it can only be good to wake up. Even if it's painful, I think it can only be good. I was also interested in the way different people judge the same circumstances so differently. It was interesting for me to explore how people respond to this man [Ethan] who's committed a crime in his past and sees himself as a changed man. And there's the next-door neighbor whose father was very ill and took his own life, and people respond so differently to that. It was just very interesting for me as a writer to get into the heads of the different people. I could really see everybody's point of view.

    Barnes & Noble.com: It's a little bit hard to tell what the ultimate judgment on Ethan Ford is. Is he truly a changed man? Is he a good person now, or is he a little bit of a monster?

    Alice Hoffman: The thing is, I have my own feelings about it, but I feel like that's what I want the reader to decide. That is a really personal decision.

    Barnes & Noble.com: It's interesting to hear that you weren't intending to include Charlotte's cancer. How did that come about?

    Alice Hoffman: I'm a breast-cancer survivor, and I wrote a book called Local Girls that was very much about a main character, the mother, who had cancer. I did not want everything I write to be about cancer. Then when I saw my oncologist, she said this wonderful thing to me, which was, "Cancer doesn't have to be your whole book; it can be just a chapter." And I've kind of carried that around with me, and I want that to be true.

    It just so happens that cancer has filtered into my life. I'm very involved in my local hospital, in starting a breast cancer center there, and I have a lot of friends who are survivors. I think it's in my subconscious, and so when it happened to this character, I was upset at first, but it seemed so organic. And then I realized that I wanted to this woman who had cancer to also be a romantic heroine. I didn't feel that I'd ever read it before or seen it before or felt it before, and I wanted that to be. And that's what seemed to happen.

    Barnes & Noble.com: Do you write a novel straight through from beginning to end, or do bits of it get developed and added in later?

    Alice Hoffman: The way I usually do something is that I write an outline. And then I start the first draft, and the outline kind of gets tossed out. Usually I write a first draft pretty quickly before I have time to start censoring and correcting myself -- and overthinking. And then I go over it and over it, and sometimes there's a time where I put the book away and go back to it later. This time I didn't do that. I just went through it, and I kept rewriting and rewriting it. Charlotte appeared. I did not expect to have different voices in the book, I didn't expect to go with different characters to the extent that I did. It just kind of happened. It's the fun of writing, when you get surprised while you're sitting there doing it.

    Barnes & Noble.com: The changes in point of view from character to character in this book are very interesting. Most writers would choose chapter breaks for such transitions. You seemed to just let the story flow along and occasionally follow a tangential musing that led you into what another character was thinking…

    Alice Hoffman: It's really fun to do. I don't know what it's going to be like for me to go back to being with just one character. It's so much freedom, and you're just flying over the town, in and out of people's consciousness. It's so much more fun.

    Barnes & Noble.com: Do you envision yourself writing all your life, or do you think there will come a day when you feel like retiring?

    Alice Hoffman: It's really interesting, I feel like you're psychic a little bit -- I've been thinking about that. Not that I don't have any more stories, because I think everybody always is filled with stories, but that I've been writing a lot, and it has been a very healing experience for me, saving my own life, and now I feel more slowed down.

    I don't know what that means; I guess I'll have to see what it means. I have a book that I've been working on, but I'm starting to have the feeling that I'm not sure this is the only thing I'm going to do. It's so funny that you should ask me, because I really have been struggling with that and thinking about at least taking a long time off.

    I've never lived my life without writing. Never. And I feel like I'm very tied into my identity as a writer, just for myself, not out on the street. Maybe I need to see what else is there. I can't imagine my life not writing, but I'm not sure that means publishing.

    Barnes & Noble.com: Reading your work, it feels like the writing of it must be a very personal process, one that's not necessarily focused on publishing as the ultimate goal.

    Alice Hoffman: It's really not. I never think about the idea that somebody's going to be reading it at some point. And even now, it's a little difficult for me to think about it, that people are reading it.

    Barnes & Noble.com: I imagine you're about to connect with that first-hand on your tour. You've started already…

    Alice Hoffman: I did a reading last night; I've done a few in Boston. I have great readers, and they're incredibly responsive. There's a real connection. That's the nice thing about going out on tour.

    Barnes & Noble.com: So if publishing a new book wasn't the foremost thought in your mind, I wonder if you could talk a little about what your personal goals were writing Blue Diary?

    Alice Hoffman: The one thing I was interested in when I was writing this book was the idea of… How well do you really know another person? What do you do with the surprise when you find out something about the people closest to you that you didn't know before? And what does it mean about you? That's always been interesting to me. Did you not want to know? Or was really impossible to know?

    Barnes & Noble.com: Did you find any answers?

    Alice Hoffman: I think it's really personal, how much you want to know and how much you don't want to know. But when I finished the book, I did have the feeling that it's always better to know the truth.

    Read More Show Less

    Reading Group Guide

    When Ethan Ford fails to show up for work on a brilliant summer morning, none of his neighbors would guess that for more than thirteen years, he has been running from his past. His true nature has been locked away, as hidden as his real identity. But sometimes locks spring open, and the devastating truths of Ethan Ford's history shatter the small-town peace of Monroe, affecting family and friends alike.

    DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

    1. In Blue Diary, Alice Hoffman uses imagery from the natural world to mirror events that take place in the lives of her characters. Why is it portentous when she writes in Chapter One that lilies "only last for a single day, and then, no matter what a person might do to save them, they are fated, by God, or circumstance, or nature, to fade away?" What else in the novel is as ephemeral as the lilies Hoffman describes?

    2. Things are not always as they seem in Monroe, Massachusetts. Do the beautiful people in the novel have more to hide than those who are less physically blessed? What do you think Hoffman might be trying to say about physical beauty?

    3. Why does Kat "save" Rosarie from running away with Ethan, if she knows it will mean staying on the losing end of her sister's mean behavior all her life?

    4. Kat asserts that her decision to report Ethan to the police had nothing to do with the loss of her own father. Do you believe her? Why or why not?

    5. Why does Jorie, after reading Rachel Morris's last diary entry, immediately decide to leave Ethan, and her hometown, behind? What does James Morris mean when he says Jorie will know what to do if she reads the diary?

    6. Loyalty and devotion are important themes in BLUE DIARY. Do you think Jorie shows sufficient loyalty to her husband?

    7. Charlotte Kite endures divorce, the loss of both her parents in high school, and breast cancer, but she finds a lover in Barney Stark. Jorie leads a charmed life until her husband's heinous crimes are revealed. Which woman has had to endure more? Which situation is resolved better?

    8. Should the deeds from our past be used to judge us in the present? Does benevolent behavior in the recent past "undo" reprehensible behavior from long ago?
    Read More Show Less

    Customer Reviews

    Average Rating 3.5
    ( 29 )
    Rating Distribution

    5 Star

    (12)

    4 Star

    (5)

    3 Star

    (7)

    2 Star

    (2)

    1 Star

    (3)

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    See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 29 Customer Reviews
    • Anonymous

      Posted April 2, 2007

      some repetitions could be left out

      It was my first book of Ms Hoffman, the description of flowers and fields i must admit got a bit on my nerves and also too many situations left as if forgotten by the author. how about what happened to charlotte? is it that natural that a wife is left with 3 kids with no feelings at all, {barney's wife} and what about the blue diary what did it hold so special to name a book after it ?? Apple trees where much more mentioned than the blue diary :)

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted January 15, 2006

      not usually disappointed

      I am an avid reader and LOVE to find new authors. After reading Hoffman's book Here on Earth, I thought I found a new favorite, BUT this book was terrible!!! It is very rare that I really dislike a book this much, but I found it to be very boring! How many tree/flower references can one author make?!?? YIKES!!! Not a fan!

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted July 15, 2012

      Love Alice Hoffman

      Great story

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    • Posted December 16, 2011

      Well Worth Your Time!

      Alice Hoffman's prose is so gorgeous it reads like poetry. This book delivers a great story, too. When Ethan's past finally catches up with him, his wife is left to pick up the pieces of her life. I'm a huge Hoffman fan, and this book is one of her best.

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    • Posted April 29, 2011

      After

      paying $12.99 for the Nook Book version of this, I wish I could get my money back...there were so many grammar and punctuation errors, word omissions and other typos that it made it very difficult to read this novel. Too bad because it wasn't really a bad book, but with the price that the ebooks are, it wasn't worth the money!

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Posted December 15, 2010

      Gets You Thinking

      A truly well written story that can't help but make you think "what if?" What would you do if you made a mistake (a terrible mistake) and tried to start over only to have the past catch up. What would you do if you married someone who turned out to be someone you didn't know. Alice Hoffman knows how to weave words in such a way that they envelope you within the pages of the book and keep you there long after the last page is read.

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    • Posted April 5, 2009

      more from this reviewer

      By far one of Alice Hoffman's best

      This is one Alice Hoffman book I recommend without a doubt. It was one of her absolute best However, it does steer slightly from her usual. It does have a scary, morbid side but it was GREAT!

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    • Anonymous

      Posted August 29, 2004

      okay

      I was disappointed. I thought the discriptions of the countryside and flowers repetetive. The characters were not that well balanced and I thought the emotional relationship between the son, mother, and father not well developed. It seemed like a sophisticated soap opera.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted October 6, 2004

      Somewhat Intriguing

      I read this book fairly quickly. It was a fast and easy read. Hoffman did a good job of keeping the relation of the title in suspense until a good way through the book. I will admit that at times, the descriptions could become long, and the change between character voices was not easily identified. However, for my first Hoffman read, I thought it was okay.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted September 18, 2003

      Great Book

      The book is something that i think about even after i finished reading it. A book that effects me like that doesn't come around everyday. It was great, I would have liked to known what was written in the diary more though.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted October 6, 2003

      To Forgive or not to Forgive that is the question

      This book leaves you wanting more, but doesn't leave too many questions unanswered. I think that the reader is left to come to their own conclusions, which is good. I don't want to be force-fed endings or to have a book come to such a conclusive ending that I don't have something to think about after I'm finished. What would be the point? I love the description of the scenery and the flowers. It allows me to visualize. This book creates controversy and makes you wonder what you would do in the character's shoes. There is no right or wrong answers, just emotions. I love the character development, even Jorie's best friend has a struggle and a purpose in the plot.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 24, 2003

      Great Story

      I loved this book! The characters, the writing, the descriptions - what a great, captivating story. Most books I give away after reading, but this one is a keeper.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted September 22, 2002

      Where nothing and no one are as they seem

      There are two antagonists in this story. Ethan Ford, the man whose homicidal past forms the main plot of the story, has spent years trying to atone for the brutal rape and murder of a young girl by living a perfect life as a pillar of the community in a small New England town. But the more frightening antagonist was Kat, the disturbed 12-year-old neighbor who turns Ethan Ford in to the police and continues to try to "set the world right" through questionably rationalized actions, all part of her misguided attempt to spare another family from the pain she felt when her own father committed suicide. Where Ethan's violence was outward and physical, Kat's violence is internal, and even more twisted and hidden than Ethan's. I ended the story feeling more afraid of this girl than I was of the murderer; as violent as his past had been, he had not carried out his crimes under the spell of the perceived righteousness of his actions, making the 12-year-old zealot the most frightening character of all. This unexpected duality is Alice Hoffman's strongest achievement in Blue Diary.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted August 22, 2002

      LEFT ME WANTING MORE

      ALTHOUGH THE AUTHOR WRITES AS IF SHE IS ACTUALLY TELLING YOU ABOUT HER CHARACTERS, I FINISHED THE BOOK WANTING MORE. I STILL DIDNT UNDERSTAND CERTAIN THINGS AS TO WHY JORIE LEFT ETHAN AS WELL AS I WANTED TO KNOW WHAT WAS WRITTEN IN THE BLUE DIARY. I WANTED TO KNOW MORE ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CHARACTERS.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted July 31, 2002

      Gripping & Twisted...

      I have read Practical magic and so thought i would give this book a try and i have to say i loved it. The way at first the characters seem so perfect, so in love only to discover a darker side to the husband........ I found the book gripping and captivating and i quite liked the way that Hoffman describes the scenes with such detail throughout the book, i think you need to look to deeper to really find yourself in the heart of the book but once you get there you really can feel the emotion in the characters and the author. All in all highly recommended and if you are looking for a book that will 'pull you in' read this!!!!!!!!!!

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 10, 2002

      Just average

      I'm not a huge fan of this writer, but I really liked 'Here on Earth', so thought I would give this one a try-- and ugh, I kept reading, but I kept wondering why. The plot is interesting, and when she is writing from the girl Kat's perspective, it has some good moments, but otherwise, the characters are flimsy and superficially developed, the whole 'storybook' marriage (prior to the crisis that the book is about) feels immature and false, and just about every chapter begins with a run on sentence about flowers, birds, etc. Frankly, when a writer puts out so much work (about a novel a year?) I think quality gets lost and everything starts to feel a little formulaic. This isn't the worst thing you could read, but there are many better novels out there.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted May 6, 2002

      Great Work on Alice Hoffman's Part

      I read Blue Diary in 2 days because I couldn't put it down. It was spellbinding and the more pages I tuned the more I liked it. The author makes great refrences to nature and that plays a big part in the book.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted November 25, 2001

      heartbreaking

      I have read previous novels by this author so I am aware of her style. Her character development is outstanding as well as her narrative presented from a childs viewpoint. The subject of this novel is trust and love and how we can find the right way even though it hurts.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted October 15, 2001

      too many adjectives

      I bought this book because I looked down the list of 'Users who bought this book also bought:' when I was purchasing Choke by Chuck Palahniuk. And let me tell you, this book is nothing like Choke. It's absolutely miserable. As far as Alice Hoffman is concerned, the only thing worth writing about in this world are flowers and stars. You'll be hard pressed to find one single page that doesn't make a reference to 'honeysuckle this,' or 'lilies that.' And every character spends a good amount of their time staring up into the night sky looking at the stars. I only need one word to describe this book, and it's BORING. I'll admit the first few chapters were somewhat entertaining, but after that, it's all downhill. And I mean a steep downhill. If you're the type of reader that can't get enough of flowery prose (literally), then you'll love this book. If you're into something a little more down to earth and you don't feel like you need a bunch of adjectives to describe every object in the world, then skip it. It's a waste of time.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted August 29, 2001

      REVIEW ON EXCERPT

      I liked how the excerpt gives you a warm feeling that fate can actually be a realism. The introduction of Ethan established just through an excerptallows the reader to welcome Ethan open arms beause of his 'perfect father/husband' image. I enjoyed the excerpt very much and am intrigued to read more.

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