Frozen in misery since age eight, when the mother she wished would disappear promptly obliged by dying in a car wreck, the thirtysomething unnamed narrator of Hoffman's hypnotic new novel has spent her life avoiding meaningful human contact. As a New Jersey reference librarian, she relentlessly pursues the details of death in all its countless causes while engaging in after-hours backseat trysting with a local cop. After settling near her brother in Florida, the narrator is struck by lightning. Now, with the color red stripped from her vision, she sees the ice that has surrounded her heart all these years. When she learns of a local legend named Lazarus Jones, dead for 40 minutes after his own strike, she feels compelled to track him down. Their affair ignites, literally, for Jones's aftereffects are so severe that touching him causes burns. Hoffman's genius allows the lovers to hang in suspended animation until the outside world intrudes, more threatening than the near-fatal electrical disruptions that have defined their lives. Less-skilled hands would have left readers awash in sticky metaphors of heat and ice. Have no such fear with the formidable Hoffman. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/04.]-Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-At the age of eight, the narrator learns the power of a spoken wish. Angry at her mother, she wishes never to see her again. When the woman dies in a car accident, the child resolves to be quiet and imagines her own fairy tale: a girl turns to ice and her heart becomes hard and unbreakable. As an adult, she becomes a reference librarian and an expert in death and ways of dying. Indifferent and unfeeling, she is unable to have meaningful relationships. She allows her brother to move her to Florida, where another wish is fulfilled: she is struck by lightning. Her hair falls out, she limps, she loses the ability to see the color red, and her heart freezes. Enrolled in a study of lightning victims, she learns about a local recluse who was dead for 40 minutes, then walked away. The nameless woman seeks him out; she wants to know what her mother experienced at the moment of death. They begin a passionate love affair. As opposites (she is ice, he is fire), the only way they can touch is in water. Hoffman incorporates elements of fairy tales ("The Snow Queen," "Beauty and the Beast"), chaos theory, and magic realism. Although the story borders on the trite and the dual imagery (fire/ice, heat/cold, red/colorless) is sometimes overdone, the narration is powerful and the ending is satisfying if a bit predictable. Hoffman's fans will find much that is familiar and appealing.-Sandy Freund, Richard Byrd Library, Fairfax County, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
The veteran, bestselling author (Blackbird House, 2004, etc.) takes risks-most of which pay off-in her dark tale of a woman literally struck by lightning. The unnamed narrator has been racked by guilt since she was eight, when she petulantly wished that her mother would disappear. Mom died in a car accident that very night, and the traumatized girl grows up into a quiet librarian with a violent interior life. Her preferred reading is the grimmest sort of fairy tale; she makes up one of her own about a girl who turns into ice so that "nothing could hurt her anymore." At the reference desk she specializes in information on ways to die, an expertise that leads her into a joyless sexual liaison with the local police chief. After the grandmother who raised them dies, the narrator's brother takes his severely depressed sister to Orlon, Fla., where he's a professor of meteorology. Peeved by his enthusiasm for the stormy weather en route, she wishes to be struck by lightning, and . . . you guessed it. The setup is schematic, and the gloomy narrator can be wearying, even when she embarks on a torrid affair with another lightning-strike survivor: Lazarus Jones, who's still so hot to the touch that they must have sex in water so he doesn't scorch her. But slowly, just as you're thinking you'll scream if you read another fairy-tale metaphor or gruesome description of the damage sustained by lightning victims, the narrator begins to be drawn out of her self-absorbed misery. Her brother and his wife are in desperate straits, Lazarus is not what he seems, and the shock of these discoveries jolts her into recognition that she cares for other people more than she's admitted. Despite what happened to hermother (which also proves to be not quite what it seemed), love is as necessary as breathing. And love "changed your whole world. Even when you didn't want it to." It takes a while to get to the beautiful closing pages, which give the narrator a happy ending she's more than earned, but this thickly textured, heavily metaphorical approach finally leads us to some genuine human emotion. Far from perfect, but Hoffman's more adventurous fans will appreciate this interesting effort. Author tour