Here on Earth

Here on Earth

by Alice Hoffman


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A seductive and mesmerizing story of obsessive love from the New York Times bestselling author of The Rules of Magic.

After nineteen years in California, March Murray returns to the small Massachusetts town where she grew up. For all this time, March has been avoiding her own troubled history, but when she encounters Hollis—the boy she loved so desperately, the man who has never forgotten her—the past collides with the present as their reckless love is reignited. This dark romantic tale asks whether it is possible to survive a love that consumes you completely. The answers March Murray discovers are both heartbreaking and wise, as complex as they are devastating—for in heaven and in our dreams, love is simple and glorious. But it is something altogether different here on earth...

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425167311
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/28/1998
Series: Oprah's Book Club Series
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 517,282
Product dimensions: 8.96(w) x 5.88(h) x 0.78(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The Rules of Magic, Practical MagicThe Marriage of OppositesThe Red Garden, the Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on EarthThe Museum of Extraordinary Things, and The Dovekeepers. She lives near Boston.


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

Table of Contents


On Friday, September 26th, welcomed Alice Hoffman to discuss HERE ON EARTH.

Moderator: Welcome, Alice Hoffman! Thanks for joining us this afternoon. And welcome to all who have tuned in online. How are you today, Ms. Hoffman?

Alice Hoffman: Good. It is nice to be here.

Jennifer from Arizona: Are any of your books autobiographical in either content or influence?

Alice Hoffman: Well, I think mostly no, because I am not writing from reality-based situations. I think of my books as being like a dream -- in a dream every character is little piece of you, and that is how my novels work.

Ben from RI: I hear conflicting things about your books -- maybe you can help me to understand. On the one hand, I hear about love and the flowers that bloom in your books, the magical realism. On the other, I hear about darkness, about complexity. How do you wrap it all into one? Which of your books do you suggest I read first?

Alice Hoffman: That is a good question, but a complicated question. The truth is, I don't like labels. If people say I do magic realism, it is OK, but I don't think of my work in those terms. Maybe because I have written so many books over a long period of time, they are different from each other. That is what keeps it interesting for me.

Davis from Montreal: Hello, Alice. I am a big fan our your writing. Are you going on a reading tour? Any chance we'll see you coming up here to Canada?

Alice Hoffman: Thanks. I just finished a reading tour, but it did not include Canada. Thank you for the invitation.

Rita Hecht from Manhattan: Are any of your characters based on your childhood experiences growing up in Franklin Square with your cousin Rita Hecht?

Alice Hoffman: Hey, Rita. No, I am really more interested in emotional truth. The book closest to being autobiographical is SEVENTH HEAVEN. It takes place in Long Island, where I grew up, in the time I grew up, but everything else is imagined.

Hank from Metaire, LA: Question you probably get all the time: How do you come up with such creative material to write about? What inspires your creative intuition?

Alice Hoffman: When I start working on a book, I always think I know what it is going to be about, but for me, the process of writing is the way I find out what a book is really going to be about. My problem is that I have too many ideas and I won't have time to finish them all.

Henry Balsam from Philadelphia: Alice: I read, loved, clipped out, and saved a quote from The Philadelphia Inquirer about your last book, PRACTICAL MAGIC. It reads: "Love, both anarchic and exonerating, lies at the heart of things." I love this quote. Tell me, how easy is it to write about love? Do you have to know it to write about it?

Alice Hoffman: When you write fiction, you don't have to know anything. All you need is to know the emotional truth. But it is true, I like to write about love.

Sandi McCraw from North Carolina: I have always wondered how someone can get into an abusive situation and stay there to suffer the abuse. Your novel has made me realize that sometimes the abuse begins so gradually, the victim doesn't see what is happening until it is too late (almost) to remove themselves from the situation. Was this one of your goals in writing the novel? (To bring domestic abuse to a point where someone who has not been abused could understand?) Thanks for a wonderful novel.

Alice Hoffman: Thank you for saying this. When I write a novel, it is not to teach someone else but to teach myself. It always seems to me that people who don't understand domestic abuse seem to be missing the fact that the abuser is not a stranger, it is a husband, father, or boyfriend, somebody loved, and it makes the situation very complicated. And thanks again for the comment -- it means a lot to me.

David from Oyster Bay: Have you had to defend yourself from critics who point the finger and say you are dubbing Emily Brontë?

Alice Hoffman: No, I really haven't, because my book HERE ON EARTH is so different. What I am doing is taking some of the themes she used. I would not try to copy her; I would be crazy to do that. I love WUTHERING HEIGHTS. Do you base any of your characters on people you know? I feel like I know some of characters. Like Alan, for example -- I almost felt like you were describing somebody I've known for 20 years.

Alice Hoffman: The characters I write about are not based on real people. To be honest, I think they contain an element of myself. I want to write fiction. I am not trying to get at a reality that is already there. Maybe we all know somebody like Alan. If we all know somebody like Alan, then his character rings true for different readers even though they have had different experiences.

Marie C. from Los Angeles, CA: I am here at a chat while I am supposed to be working.... What can I say -- you are one of my favorite authors. I heard something about one of your books being made into a movie with Sandra Bullock. Is that true?

Alice Hoffman: Well, thanks for your kind words. I hear that, too. I think it may start in January, directed by Griffin Dunne, who has directed ADDICTED TO LOVE, and it will star Sandra Bullock.

Rory from Florida: Alice, two questions:
1) When you begin your writing sessions, how do you begin? Do you do a writing exercise? How do you start?
2) What was your most favorite part to write in this novel?

Alice Hoffman: Sometimes I do start with an exercise. I sometimes find when I finish a novel and then start another that I forget how to write. I write down facts about the characters so I know them inside and out. And my favorite part of HERE ON EARTH was that I felt so immersed in this place when I was writing it. I painted my office so it felt like I was in autumn all the time, I covered it with leaves and painted it orange and green. And there I was.

Rita Hecht from Manhattan: Will you be doing a book signing anytime soon in the New York area?

Alice Hoffman: I just did Barnes & Noble in Chelsea, and I won't be doing any more soon. Sorry I missed you.

Thomas from Hanover, NH: I've asked this question a couple of times with different authors, and they have all answered by saying their favorite of their novels is their latest work. Would you say that HERE ON EARTH is your favorite of your books? My favorite is PRACTICAL MAGIC, although, I haven't read HERE ON EARTH yet.

Alice Hoffman: Yeah, I guess it is HERE ON EARTH. The truth is, my favorite book is the one that hasn't been written yet, so it is always the next one.

Mark from NYC: What kinds of imaginative games did you play as a child that involved some of the fairy-tale images -- witches, giants, etc.-- that pop up in your books? Thanks.

Alice Hoffman: My favorite things to read were fairy tales when I was younger because I felt they had an emotional truth in them. I was also a fan of reading anything involving a dog. I just wrote a children's book, entitiled FIREFLIES, and it has some of those elements in it.

Andrea from California: To be more specific, which book will be made into a movie? Now you have me all excited.

Alice Hoffman: PRACTICAL MAGIC looks like it might be, but you never know in Hollywood. It seems like PRACTICAL MAGIC may be made into a movie in January.

luna410 from Chicago: Dear Ms. Hoffman, you are my favorite author. My favorite book so far is SEVENTH HEAVEN. I just loved Nora! Your newest book, HERE ON EARTH, was wonderful also. I am wondering if you think that real life has a magical quality -- for example, do you believe in synchronicity?

Alice Hoffman: I do believe in synchronicity, and I do believe there are magical elements in everyday life. All you have to do is look at fireflies on a summer night. If that is not magic, I don't know what is.

Jennifer from Dover, NJ: Do you read your book reviews?

Alice Hoffman: Sometimes. I don't read them all. I think they are dangerous for writers to read -- it is not a good idea to be influenced by too much praise or too much criticism, because really you are writing the book for yourself, and if other people like it, great.

Lynn V. from Chicago: Alice, I just love your novels, because you aren't afraid to examine the magical and ineffable quality of life. I've been taken by your writing ever since I read FORTUNE'S DAUGHTER. My question is this: I also am a writer, but I find it hard to allow myself to get into the magical realm that you explore so beautifully. It's as if there's a rational critic in my head saying, "Nope. Unbelievable." How do you get that critic to shut up?

Alice Hoffman: Such a good question, and it is something I deal with every day. I like to work really early, before that critic is at work, and just let your writing flow even for a short time. I always think the more you write, the more free you become.

Kelly from Cincinnati, OH: How does it feel to be listed as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Entertainment?

Alice Hoffman: It feels really, really good.

Paul from Morris Plains, NJ: I am a big fan. Just wondering: What are some of your interests outside of writing?

Alice Hoffman: Well, reading. I am mostly interested in writing. I have kids, dogs, and friends, and basically that is it. That is my life.

Penny from Port Washington, NY: Do you miss Long Island? Do you ever see yourself coming back?

Alice Hoffman: Well, I feel like I am back and around in my writing. It is an important place for me emotionally. I still have friends there, and I do go back and visit.

Frederick from Tampa Bay: Do you believe in spirits, that angels walk the earth? The afterlife?

Alice Hoffman: Well, I don't know. I am pretty open to believing in pretty much anything. In my real life, I am something of a realist. I am the kind of person who, when invited to a friends house for dinner and they begin talking about the ghost that lives there, I leave. I might believe in it, but I am not ready for it.

Jill from New Jersey: Other than writers, who had the most influence on your childhood?

Alice Hoffman: My grandmother did. I was very close to her, and she told me lots of stories about growing up in Russia that I feel influenced my work. She was very supportive -- unconditional love.

Francine from Austin, TX: Hello, Alice. I really enjoy your novels. And I really like the cover of HERE ON EARTH. Do you design your covers?

Alice Hoffman: Thank you. I don't. I really like the cover of HERE ON EARTH. I don't design them, but I feel like I have been really lucky. I love this cover, and I think it is the best.

Andrea from California: I appreciate your writing so much that I wonder what you are reading lately? What authors inspire you?

Alice Hoffman: When I am writing fiction, I don't read. When I was traveling with my book, I read THE COLOR OF WATER by James McBride. I love Anne Tyler, Amy Tan.... There are a lot of people I enjoy reading, but not when I am working.

Mark from NYC: The voice in HERE ON EARTH is very interesting, somewhat of an omniscient, forecasting narrator. Can you tell us about that decision?

Alice Hoffman: Interesting question, because it doesn't feel like a decision. When I write the book, the voice comes to me. HERE ON EARTH is about a whole town, so the voice telling the story has to know pretty much everything about that town.

Amy G. from UT: Do you believe in extraterrestrial life? Friend or foe?

Alice Hoffman: I am ready to believe.

Babette from University of Virginia: Do you read Márquez? Borges? I personally find Latin American literature to be the most challenging of categorical genres.

Alice Hoffman: I have read both of those writers, and I think they are doing some very interesting work. Maybe it is my bias, but I have a bias for North American women writers.

Pauly Davidoff from Massachussetts: Have you ever appeared online before? What do you think about the Internet in relation to book sales and discussions?

Alice Hoffman: I have been online, but I have to say, I am not online myself. Personally I tend to get addicted to things, and I am afraid I might get addicted online instead of writing my book.

Jeffrey from Haverford, PA: I'm curious to know how much of your day consists of writing. Do you write every day? For how long?

Alice Hoffman: When I am working on a book, I write very early in the morning for a couple of hours; then I write on and off all day till about 3. But when I am working on a book, I am very involved; I carry it around with me even when I am not working on it.

Moderator: Thanks again for spending time with us today, Alice Hoffman. We hope you'll come back and visit online with us again. Any final remarks before we go?

Alice Hoffman: Well, I just wanted to thank you for inviting me to be here today, and thanks to my readers.

Customer Reviews

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Here on Earth 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 113 reviews.
TulaneGirl More than 1 year ago
Disappointed with this book. Had high expectations. A little Wuthering Heights but in reality I could no more sympathize with the main heroine than I could with the hero.
Amber Rinker More than 1 year ago
I was getting into it until around the middle when it turned into Wuthering Heights. Pretty much the exact same story.... really is there nothing else to write about?
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juniperSun on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An enjoyable read even tho my opinion about this book kept changing. At first, I noticed the imagery, and enjoyed the way she describes things: "so many orchards circled the village that on some crisp October afternoons the whole world smelled like pie" (p 4), "The sky is so flat and gray Gwen has the urge to put her arms over her head for protection, just in case stones should begin to fall from the clouds." (p40) The focus of the novel shifts a good way in, and I begin to think we're just being given a standard romance plot and I'm disappointed that I won't learn anything from this book. And after a bit the emotional tone changes, becomes more obsessed, and I'm sure I can see where we'll end up, agreeing with another reviewer about being disgusted by the dysfunction. However, one of the characters has more strength than I gave her credit for, and the ending is not what I expected. The book is divided into 3 parts, which somewhat mesh with the shifts I noticed, but not precisely since the story is a smooth progression, so there is a gradual introduction of the shift before the next part. What with the imagery and the ending, I'm happy that I stuck it out. There really are some insights gained by the characters.I was pretty bothered by not being able to figure out for quite a long while the when and where of the setting. There is a mix of time, beginning with March as a mother of a teen and frequently jumping us back to her own teen years. Her description of the village seems so old-fashioned, almost 1930's, which would make "now" 1950's or '60s but her daughter Gwen has such a modern tone of voice. I wonder if that just shows the universality of teen resentment of parents? Her clothes & hairstyle seems too modern but there is no mention of ubiquitous cell phones or computers. I finally decide "now" is 1990's when an adult buys a computer. That would make "then" 1965, however, and I still can't figure out how the village social services are run by "the library board" or how orphaned kids can be taken into a home without a lot of Social Service oversight and inspection. And where? Hoffman doesn't write dialect. Obviously east coast, since there are tidal marshes. Because I get a flash of Beans of Egypt Maine, I guess Maine for the setting, as likely being the most different in village structure and the most "keep your nose out of others' business", but it doesn't seem cold enough. The presence of race horses makes me guess Virginia,perhaps the islands, but midway thru we are told New England.I also had quibbles with some of her statements but wasn't sure my grasp of facts was all that accurate: spring peepers calling in August (p 20), the horses that were "worth more money than her father would ever manage to earn" (p 27). Later we are told how much a horse can be worth, and I see this could have been a true statement for a teen.
klarsenmd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This dark tale of love is depressing and yet still full of the beautiful, whimsical prose I have come to associate with Alice Hoffman. Not my favorite by her, but enchanting in it's own way.
milk_toast on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Alice Hoffman is a wonderful story teller, however, I felt this book contained too many references to the town's local lore and felt almost supernatural in a totally realistic story. The beginning was slow going, as was the ending. I felt the ending was short and last minute, like Hoffman was grasping for closure for March and Hollis.
ljpower on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hoffman's story is full of dark surprises. March and Hollis and their obsession with each other took what I expected to be a pleasant tale into a very dark place. I had difficulty placing myself in March's position, as she abandoned her entire family to chase a man who held such little regard for her. March's brother Allen is also a tortured character but had the chance to show some redeeming qualities through his niece, Gwen I was waiting for the happy ending that didn't happen.Hoffman has an interesting writing style and her use of time and place add to the story. This is my second Hoffman book and I am looking forward to reading a few more. Don't read this book if you are looking for a story that has all the loose ends tied up in a nice neat bow. Rather, enjoy this book for an eye-opening look at how easy it is to survive a dysfunctional relationship.
mana_tominaga on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
March Murray returns to her hometown with her daugher Gwen, to attend a funeral of her housekeeper. She becomes involved again with her childhood lover, entering into a lifeless, destructive romance. The emotional whirlwind of her all-consuming love evokes Wuthering Heights.
Staciele on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was our book club read. Our group was divided with a few loving it and the rest thinking it was just ok. I was one of the few who loved it. Alice Hoffman's writing draws you in from the very first page. She writes in a way that she can describe a scene without saying the words. It is easy to see why she is one of author, Jodi Picoult's favorite writers. You can truly escape in her stories. Even though this story was depressing, sad, dark, cryptic, and frankly, without much hope for the characters, I still was riveted until the very last page. I could feel myself being drawn into the characters so much that when they were scared, I could feel my own chest tightening. Hoffman describes the feelings of power and control so well, from both perspectives, you can feel yourself right in the situation. I had so many pages and quotes marked from this book, I just want to share a few with you:"Is this how fates are made and futures cast? An idle choice, a windy day, a dog that can't mind his own business? Some people know the exact moment they lost everything. They can look back and see it plain as day and for the life of them can't understand why they didn't spot the situation as it was happening.""Among men and women, those in love do not always announce themselves, with declarations and vows. but they are the ones who weep when you're gone. Who miss you every single night, especially when the sky is so deep and beautiful, and the ground so very cold.""All over town tonight, the wind will drive women from their beds. They'll think of their first true love and search through their jewelry boxes for trinkets - gold lockets, ticket stubs, strands of hair. March would be one of those women, but instead she's here, on the road where there were once so many foxes. If truth be told, she's been here all this time, in their dark and windy place, like a ghost trapped inside the location of her memory."Even though this book dealt with circumstances that most people would find sick or disgraceful, I found the story to be very believable. The subject matters were haunting and even though you didn't want to think about what you were reading, you couldn't stop turning the pages. I am curious to read other Hoffman novels and see more of her writings. I also realize this story isn't for everyone.
kbig on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my all time favorite books. She writes teenage angst better than any other author I've read. The story is gripping and tells about first love just like it is.
Sandra305 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A friend loaned me this book as I usually love Oprah's Book Club selections, but I was disappointed with this selection Everything seemed too superficial and stereotypical and I wasn't really able to identify with any of the characters. Even the plotting seemed superficial and contrived, and I was actually relieved when I got to the last page and could close the book.
tmbcoughlin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book is somber and dark. With the exception of Hank, and even he reaches some of my limits, I really don't like the characters. Each character has an element where you may want to have compassion but it is all taken away by the balance of their character.
Stevejm51 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I just wanted to shake some sense into March. Why did she love Hollis? I couldn't wait to be finished with this book so I could quit reading about all these dysfuntional characters.
sdunford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hard to put down - not as good as her more atmospheric novels but still excellent
cindyloumn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An Oprah selection. Again all her selections are usually so dark-sad. Sort of predictable. A no win situation. Women are played dumb, Men weak. Liked other books of her's better.rating=54/10/98
carmarie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite Alice Hoffman book! The twist she places in the plot is astounding and heartbreaking. Hoffman has an elegant darkness to her that I find present in most of her works.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a great fan of the author and have loved all of her novels. ~*~LEB~*~
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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anonymous67 More than 1 year ago are all of Alice  Hoffman's  amazing, magical books are.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First rate story. Beautiful prose
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This exceptionally well written book is an update of Wuthering Heights with a twist. It is the story of March (CATHY) returning to her hometown after being in California for many years. Once home, she meets up with Hollis (HEATHCLIFF). Will she embrace her second chance at a first love?