The B&N Podcast: Alice Hoffman on the Stories We Need to Survive

Every author has a story beyond the one that they put down on paper.

Today’s episode is a conversation with the prolific, bestselling author Alice Hoffman, who joins us to talk about her engrossing new novel The World That We Knew.  Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The Rules of Magic, The Marriage of Opposites, Practical Magic, The Red Garden, and 1997’s Here on Earth, which was an Oprah’s Book Club selection, and she’s written multiple works for young adults and children. In her novels Hoffman has drawn boldly on both historical fact and myth, folktale and legend, to create stories in which mystery and magic often suffuse an otherwise familiar world. For The World That We Knew, which follows a group of Jewish refugees struggling to survive and resist the unfolding terror of the Holocaust, Hoffman links ancient traditions of Jewish magic to the stories of hidden children she researched for her book. When she joined us in the studio,  B&N’s Bill Tipper asked her to talk about the alchemy of her storytelling, and how she was able to connect the traumas of the 1930s and 40s to tapestry of legends that spans centuries.


In Berlin in 1941 during humanity’s darkest hour, three unforgettable young women must act with courage and love to survive, from the New York Times bestselling author of The Dovekeepers and The Marriage of Opposites Alice Hoffman.

In Berlin, at the time when the world changed, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. She finds her way to a renowned rabbi, but it’s his daughter, Ettie, who offers hope of salvation when she creates a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined, their paths fated to cross, their fortunes linked.

Lea and Ava travel from Paris, where Lea meets her soulmate, to a convent in western France known for its silver roses; from a school in a mountaintop village where three thousand Jews were saved. Meanwhile, Ettie is in hiding, waiting to become the fighter she’s destined to be.

What does it mean to lose your mother? How much can one person sacrifice for love? In a world where evil can be found at every turn, we meet remarkable characters that take us on a stunning journey of loss and resistance, the fantastical and the mortal, in a place where all roads lead past the Angel of Death and love is never ending.

This Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition features an essay on the mystical element of the golem.

Explore all of Alice Hoffman’s books.

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Author photo of Alice Hoffman (c) Deborah Feingold