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Second Nature

Second Nature

3.7 16
by Alice Hoffman, Kate Nelligan (Read by)

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A New York Times bestseller, 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


A New York Times bestseller, 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.

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)

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication date:
Edition description:
Abridged, 2 cassettes, 3 hrs.
Product dimensions:
4.65(w) x 7.10(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Alice Hoffman is the author of thirty works of fiction, including Practical Magic, The Red Garden, the Oprah's Book Club Selection Here on Earth, and the recent blockbuster bestseller The Dovekeepers. She lives in Boston.

Kate Nelligan received Tony nominations for her performances in Spoils of War, Serious Money, A Moon for the Misbegotten, and Plenty, for which she also received the Olivier Award in London. Her films include How to Make an American Quilt, The Prince of Tides (Oscar nom), Frankie and Johnny (DW Griffith & British Academy Awards), Fatal Instinct, Eye of the Needle, Eleni, and White Room. She received an Emmy nomination for her performance on the television series The Road to Avonlea.

Brief Biography

Boston, Massachusetts
Date of Birth:
March 16, 1952
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
B.A., Adelphi University, 1973; M.A., Stanford University, 1974

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Second Nature 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
MarieHammond More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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?
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
brf1948 More than 1 year ago
I usually enjoy Alice Hoffman, but had put this one aside because the premise is so unbelievable. I mean, a man raised by wolves? But I was looking for something else yesterday and saw several reviews from readers I respect, so dug it out. And it is quite enjoyable, and a frankly 'nice' tale to wile away a few stress-free hours. I love a challenging read and history of any sort, but the closer it gets to the holidays, the more I need simplicity. Thank you, Alice Hoffman, for giving us a book here and there that lets us believe if only until the five o'clock news that all I could be right with the world. I'm going to dig out Turtle Moon and Practical Magic, both of which I adored, to read again. Who says the holidays have to be hard?
Coyotedreamer More than 1 year ago
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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Guest More than 1 year ago
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!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.