Second Nature

( 15 )

Overview

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Dovekeepers, Second Nature tells the story of a suburban woman, Robin Moore, who discovers her own free spirit through a stranger she brings home to her perfectly ordered neighborhood. As Robin impulsively draws this beautiful, uncivilized man into her world-meanwhile coping with divorce and a troubled teenage son-she begins to question her wisdom and doubt her own heart, and ultimately she changes her ideas about love and ...

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Second Nature

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Overview

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Dovekeepers, Second Nature tells the story of a suburban woman, Robin Moore, who discovers her own free spirit through a stranger she brings home to her perfectly ordered neighborhood. As Robin impulsively draws this beautiful, uncivilized man into her world-meanwhile coping with divorce and a troubled teenage son-she begins to question her wisdom and doubt her own heart, and ultimately she changes her ideas about love and humanity.

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Editorial Reviews

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
The fable that lies at the heart of Alice Hoffman's lyrical new novel, "Second Nature," is familiar almost to the point of cliche. . . . "Second Nature" is moving, up to a point. But beyond that point you are forced to think about its premise that humans dare not alienate themselves from nature by thinking about it abstractly, a proposition that is so worn and debatable that it finally undermines an otherwise diverting story. -- New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Beguiled by her seductive prose and her imaginative virtuosity, readers have always been willing to suspend disbelief and enjoy the touches of magic in Hoffman's novels ( Illumination Night ; Turtle Moon , etc). Here, credibility is stretched not by magical intervention but by the implausibility of a major character. When a feral young man is discovered living with wolves in a remote area of upper Michigan, he cannot speak and can barely remember his early life. Transferred to a hospital in Manhattan, he does not utter a sound and is on his way to being incarcerated in a mental institution until divorced landscape designer Robin Moore impulsively hustles him into her pickup truck and carries him to the sanctuary of her home on an island in Nassau County. There the Wolf Man reveals that his name is Stephen and that he was the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed his parents when he was three-and-a-half years old; thereafter he lived with a wolf pack. Within three months Robin teaches Stephen to read; soon afterwards they begin a passionate affair. How Stephen can so easily expand the small vocabulary he had mastered at a tender age but has never used since, how suddenly he can deal with sophisticated concepts, speak in grammatical sentences and even observe the social graces, is the central flaw that undermines what is otherwise a highly engaging tale. Stephen's presence in the community causes various people to reassess their lives; then there is a tragedy involving a child, (a device that is beginning to be a pattern in Hoffman's novels, as are strange changes in climate that herald a significant event). Hoffman's keen appraisal of human nature and her graceful prose do much to keep this novel appealing; but the bedrock implausibility may deter readers from whole-hearted enjoyment. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Hoffman continues her sensitive portrayal of outcasts, growing more bizarre with each book. Here she introduces Stephen, raised by wolves and about to be declared incurably insane, who is rescued by a woman in the midst of a messy divorce. This small Long Island town is complete with pettiness, busybodies, and interrelated lives. Robin's estranged husband is on the police force, her brother is Stephen's psychiatrist, and her teenage son dates the girl next door, whose sister is murdered. It is one of many murders (first animals, then humans), all easy to blame on you-know-who. An interesting premise and fascinating characters, but the story itself borders on mystery, and as such it promises more than it delivers. The finest writing is on the first tape where descriptions of Stephen's return to humanity are startling; by the second cassette, we've guessed who the villain is. The ending is so unsatisfying that listeners may feel that they've missed something. For larger collections.-Rochelle Ratner, formerly Poetry Editor, ``Soho Weekly News,'' New York
Kirkus Reviews
There's always been a kind of primal undercurrent in Hoffman's love stories—a pulse of feeling as mysterious and inevitable as the moon-besotted turtles who clamber out of the sea to lay their eggs once a year. In her tenth novel, a latter-day Beauty and the Beast, this pulse is as powerful as a drumbeat—it draws you in and frightens you at the same time. Stephen is not your everyday beast. He's an attractive and intelligent man who happens to have been a feral child, raised by wolves and then returned, unwillingly, to civilization. When Robin Moore chances upon him in a hospital corridor, it's as if she's fallen under a spell. She could never explain it, she just has to rescue him, spiriting him back to the house she shares with her teenaged son in a small island community near N.Y.C. But it's difficult to keep secrets in a small community. Robin and Stephen quickly find themselves the objects of rumor and scrutiny from nosy neighbors, from Robin's estranged husband, Roy, who's a member of the police force, from just about anybody who has a window to spy out of. Tensions mount and, when tragedy strikes on the island, its aftermath comes as no surprise. Hoffman's foreshadowing is laid on a little thick here, but, by the close, events don't seem so much predictable as predestined in the way of a myth or a good fairy tale, made just spooky enough by that steady, distant drumbeat. Once again, Hoffman (Turtle Moon, 1992, etc.) stirs up the unlikely with the ordinary and seasons it, expertly, deliciously, with our darkest desires—her fans should wolf it down. (Literary Guild Dual Selection for May)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425161630
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/28/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 629,596
  • Product dimensions: 5.38 (w) x 7.96 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Alice Hoffman is the best-selling author of The Dovekeepers and several other beloved novels, including 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:

    Customer Reviews

    Average Rating 3.5
    ( 15 )
    Rating Distribution

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    Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
    • Posted March 7, 2010

      It was OK

      I love any book written by Jodi Piccoult. She says she reads everything that Alice Hoffman writes, so I wanted to see what was go great about this author. I selected this book to read because it looked interesting. The premise of the story is good, and it kept me engaged. The idea that a man was raised by wolves and then is entered back into society was compelling. I loved the main character because he saw man in society with no filter. As a result, he saw things in a very honest way. However, I was not very pleased with the end and had hoped for something more.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted March 20, 2007

      What happened?

      I feel alittle cheated because I never found out what happened to Stephen or did it say and I missed it? I was really into the book and then I seen only a few pages left, what happened to the characters after Stephen left. And what happened to Stephen? Did he ever come back? Will there be another book?

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted February 15, 2007

      not great

      This was my first Alice Hoffman novel, and it will probably be my last. I didn't get attached to any of the characters, all the relationships were based on lust, the plot was way too unrealistic to be feasible (how could he be completely normal within such a short span of time), and at the end I was just like, 'that's it?' I really didn't enjoy it very much. But I seem to be the only one, so maybe it's just Hoffman's style that I don't like.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted September 3, 2013

      Alice Hoffman writes magical realism, Her characters are dark, i

      Alice Hoffman writes magical realism, Her characters are dark, interesting, complex and romantic. I love her stories, this one in particular. 

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 23, 2005

      A True Alice Hoffman Fan

      Alice never fails to satisfy. I did not want to put this book down. The characters are real and familiar. I just love Alice's style!!!

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    • Anonymous

      Posted July 21, 2003

      outstanding!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      I am not person that likes to read for the most part, but i picked up this book at work and could not put it down. It was a wonderful and enchanting story that heightens the senses. Alice Hoffman is a truely gifted writter.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted July 26, 2002

      A great story that weaves its characters together

      Such a moving story, with great character development and a plot that made me stay up really late at night to see what happens next.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted March 19, 2001

      heart-wrenching

      I read this book during air travel and was so moved I couldn't control my tears in public.It remains one of the most stirring novels I have experienced. Not light-hearted but definitly a treat.

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