"...[I]t certainly seems as though [Hoffman's] entrancing and mythological tales flow like water from a spring, and her new book is no exception....As the stories leapfrog from colonial times toward the present, Hoffman, a subtle conjurer of telling details and ironic predicaments, orchestrates intense romances and profound sacrifices. Those who live in Blackbird House, by turns brilliant, crazy, and courageous, follow their dreams, endure nightmares, and find that their numinous home is as much a part of their being as their parents' DNA"
—Booklist (American Library Association)
Prolific novelist Hoffman (The Probable Future; Blue Diary; etc.) offers 12 lush and lilting interconnected stories, all taking place in the same Cape Cod farmhouse over the course of generations. Built during British colonial days by a man who dies tragically on a final fishing trip, Blackbird House is home, in the following generation, to a man who lost his leg to a giant halibut. In the late 19th century, Blackbird inhabitant Violet Cross has a brief affair with a Harvard scholar who inevitably betrays her; in the story that follows, she pushes her son, Lion West, to Harvard in 1908, which in turn launches him to life-and early death-in England. Lion's orphaned son, Lion West Jr., serves in World War II and meets a German-Jewish woman spirited enough to stand up to his possessive grandmother Violet. Hoffman's symbols are lovingly presented and polished: the 10-year-old boy who drowned with his father in the first story sets free a pet blackbird, who returns, now all white, to live with the boy's mother; in the last two stories, a 10-year-old boy blames a white crow for his mischief, and, a generation later, that boy's grown-up sister meets a 10-year-old boy who makes her reconsider selling Blackbird House. Fire, water, milk, pears, halibut-these, too, play important symbolic and sometimes almost magical roles. This may not be the subtlest of literary devices, but Hoffman's lyrical prose weaves an undeniable spell. Agent, Elaine Markson. (Aug. 1) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
This marks a change for Hoffman (The Probable Future), whose fiction often features enigmatic individuals who inject a bit of magic into their quotidian routines. Here 12 linked short stories center on an uncanny setting, an isolated Cape Cod farm that entices and influences a variety of owners and residents from the 18th century to the present. In "The Edge of the World," Blackbird House is constructed by Coral Hadley's husband just before their dreams are literally blown away in a deadly gale. "The Witch of Truro" brings a mentally shattered woman to the farm as the unlikely savior of Lysander Wynn, a former sailor land-bound and bitter after losing his leg to a mammoth halibut. Another monster, albeit imaginary, is the means by which desperate Violet Cross seeks to bind a lover in "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair." Other equally haunted-and haunting-characters populate the tales, which are also notable for their intense sense of place. Hoffman's many fans should welcome this little gem with enthusiasm. Recommended for most fiction collections.-Starr E. Smith, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-In this collection of tales, Hoffman takes readers into the lives of the people who lived in Blackbird House from the time of the American Revolution to the present. The house, on a farm on Cape Cod, has a haunting presence throughout the book. In addition to ghost sightings, there are touches of magical realism (a white blackbird, blood-red pears-the color of witchcraft, "crying turnips"). However, it is the characters themselves, their stories and their relationships with others, that are the most compelling. Among them are Violet, a voracious reader, greedy for knowledge and betrayed by the love of her life, whose "fierce love" continues to influence the lives of her son and grandson; Jamie, a boy helping his neighbor deal with the consequences of a secret that everyone has known-and ignored-for years; Emma, a leukemia survivor, wishing to become the person she might have been if she hadn't been so ill as a child. The residents of Blackbird House experience deep sorrow and personal loss, but they also endure due to the power of love. Many of the characters are between the ages of 10 and 30, which will add to the book's appeal for young adults.-Sandy Freund, Richard Byrd Library, Fairfax County, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
With a dozen stories, some more clearly connected than others but all set in the same farmhouse on Cape Cod from the time of the British blockade to the present, Hoffman (Blue Diary, 2002, etc.) creates a continuous narrative built up through a sense of place. Blackbird House was built "On the Edge of the World" by a fisherman lost, along with his younger son, during what he'd hoped was to be his last sea voyage before settling down to farm. "The Witch of Truro" is actually Ruth, a desperate orphan who finds love and security with a kindly one-legged blacksmith on the farm. When Ruth's husband dies years later, her daughter buries "The Token" to help her recover. These stories lean heavily on symbolism-fire, water, the color red, a white blackbird-but Hoffman has grown in subtlety, so that the recurring motifs and occasionally heightened realism work nicely within the book's structure. At the center, three interlocking stories follow Violet, a bookish farm girl. She falls in love with a visiting Harvard professor who ends up marrying her prettier sister-but not before impregnating Violet. Violet marries a good man and happily raises three children on the farm. The oldest, unaware of his paternity, wins a scholarship to Harvard and leaves Cape Cod. When he dies in Europe years later, Violet brings home his son to raise. That grandson returns from WWII with a Jewish wife, a Holocaust survivor ready to meet the challenge of Violet's fierce love. In the '50s and '60s, unhappiness hovers over the farm: murder, resentments, suicide. But in the concluding pieces, about a family that must rebuild itself after confronting a child's bout with leukemia, the farm becomes a source of love and renewal.While family names come and go (and sometimes reappear), the farm undergoes its own evolution. A quiet but deeply moving achievement of lyric power. Agent: Elaine Markson/Elaine Markson Literary Agency