Here on Earthby Alice Hoffman
The bestselling author of Turtle Moon and Practical Magic tells her most seductive and mesmerizing tale yet--the story of March Murray, who returns to her small Massachusetts hometown after nineteen years, encountering her childhood sweetheart...and discovering the heartbreaking and complex truth about their reckless and romantic love.See more details below
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The bestselling author of Turtle Moon and Practical Magic tells her most seductive and mesmerizing tale yet--the story of March Murray, who returns to her small Massachusetts hometown after nineteen years, encountering her childhood sweetheart...and discovering the heartbreaking and complex truth about their reckless and romantic love.
Hoffman's fans won't be disappointed by the airy-fairy Here on Earth, her 12th novel, which weaves all of Hoffman's usual themes into a dreamy, intricate family melodrama, complete with alcoholism, wife-beating, obsessional love and whiffs of murder. It's the story of March Murray, who returns to her ancestral home at Fox Hill in New England after spending decades away in "lemon-colored" Palo Alto. In tow is her difficult teenage daughter Gwen, who is described as "pretty ... in spite of all her sabotage." At issue is a death in the family, but we know that March is really back to face her old ghosts, this time in the form of her adopted brother Hollis, whom she has been obsessively thinking about ever since his disappearance 20 years earlier.
Confused? Don't be. Here on Earth, despite its convoluted plot threads and histories, is at heart a romance novel with a bite. As with a good made-for-TV movie, you can pretty much guess what will happen to poor old March, whose naiveté is at best frustrating and at worst unlikable. Nor is it any surprise that Hollis -- with his black, snapping eyes, and whose exits are followed by a blast of cold wind -- reveals himself to be Evil Incarnate: Subtlety is not one of Hoffman's strong points.
Still, this novel's comfy, confident voice is enough to lure you into an armchair for the better part of an evening. Hoffman's world is a place where emotions become aromas: Longing is "the scent of grass on her pillow"; anger is a "scorching scent"; mourning is "the scent of roses sweet and ripe and sorrowful." Moons peep out behind trees, fox-colored dogs herald the advent of evil and dreams are to be courted and followed.
Hoffman relies on her readers suspending a certain amount of disbelief, which may lull her into thinking she can get away with some occasionally terrible writing. "One look from him is more substantial than the wooden bar she's leaning her elbows upon," Ms. Hoffman breathlessly writes when March spies Hollis for the first time. "It's realer than the bottles of whiskey lined up behind the counter; realer than the pull of fabric as Susie tugs on her jacket." Thankfully, descriptions like that are few and far between. Ms. Hoffman may have more in common with Robert James Waller than Robert Louis Stevenson, but Here on Earth is no toothless romance. It's curiously pleasurable, and reading it induces only a minimum of guilt. --Salon
It might seem that March Murray has purely sentimental reasons for leaving her apparently happy life in California (nice house, professor husband) to attend her former housekeeper's funeral in Jenkintown, Mass., the bleak, suffocatingly tiny town where she grew up. After all, Mrs. Dale did help March's father raise her after the girl's mother died, and she remained a loyal friend until her death. But anyone who knew March in her teenage years must suspect that her real reason for returning with sullen teenage daughter in tow is for a reunion with Hollis, the bad boy March was once inseparable from. An abandoned child and the product of a series of detention homes, Hollis was brought to the Murray house as a charity-case boarder when he was in his teens. He kept his own counsel, except when sending smoldering glances March's way. The two became lovers until a misunderstanding split them apartMarch to marry the rich boy next door, Hollis to amass a fortune, marry March's sister-in-law, and survive her to wait, brooding, for March's return. Their heated reunion leads to the breakup of March's marriage, and, despite the warnings of practically everyone in town, March moves into Hollis's gloomy mansion, puts up with his neurotic possessiveness, and watches him scare her daughter back to California before she realizes that the Hollis she lives with now is nothing but the evil, heartless relic of the wounded boy she once loved.
A chilly, hopeless love story with an unhappy conclusion. Hard to see what readers will find to like in such a tale.
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