The Third Angel

The Third Angel

by Alice Hoffman

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307405951
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 03/03/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 284,926
Product dimensions: 5.22(w) x 7.88(h) x 0.65(d)

About the Author

Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty bestselling works of fiction, including Practical Magic, a major motion picture; Here on Earth, an Oprah Book Club selection; the highly praised historical novel The Dovekeepers; and, most recently, The Museum of Extraordinary Things. Her books for teens include Green Angel, Green Witch, Incantation, The Fortelling, and Aquamarine, also a major motion picture, starring Emma Roberts. Visit her online at alicehoffman.com.

Hometown:

Boston, Massachusetts

Date of Birth:

March 16, 1952

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Education:

B.A., Adelphi University, 1973; M.A., Stanford University, 1974

Read an Excerpt

I.

The Heron's Wife

1999

Madeline Heller knew she was reckless. She had flown to London from New York two days ahead of schedule and was now checked into her room at the Lion Park Hotel in Knightsbridge. The air was still and filled with dust motes; the windows hadn't been opened in months. Everything smelled like cedar and lavender. Maddy felt hot and exhausted from her travels but she didn't bother to turn on the air conditioner. She was madly, horribly, ridiculously in love with the wrong man and it made her want to lie there on the bed, immobilized.

Madeline wasn't stupid; she was an attorney in New York. She was thirty-four years old and had graduated from Oberlin and NYU Law School, a tall woman with long black hair. Many people thought she was beautiful and smart, but none of those people mattered. They didn't know her. They had no idea she was a traitor to her own flesh and blood. They would never have guessed she would throw her life away so easily, without thinking twice.

There was good love and there was bad love. There was the kind that helped raise a person above her failings and there was the desperate sort that struck when someone least wanted or expected it. That was what had happened to Maddy this past spring when she'd come to London to help plan her sister's wedding. Allie hadn't even asked for her help; it was their mother, Lucy, who'd told Maddy she should go to London and assist with the preparations; she was the maid of honor after all. And then when she got there, Allie had already taken care of everything, just as she always did.

Allie was older by thirteen months. She was the good sister, the perfect sister, the one who had everything. She was a writer who had published an extremely popular children's book. When she walked down the street people often recognized her, and she was always willing to sign scraps of paper for someone's child or present a fan with one of the bookplates she carried in her purse. Once a year she came back to the States to give readings for what had become a perennially popular event where children dressed up in bird costumes. There were nine- and ten-year-old cardinals and ducks and crows all waiting on line to have their copy of The Heron's Wife signed. Maddy sometimes accompanied her sister on tour. She couldn't believe all the fuss over a silly children's story, one Allie had pinched from a tale their mother used to tell. Technically, the story belonged to Maddy as much as it did to her sister, not that she'd felt the need to write a book or change it inside out to suit herself.

The story was one Lucy Heller would tell down by the marsh where the girls had grown up. Lucy's own mother, the girls' grandmother, had waded barefoot into a pond in Central Park to talk to a huge blue heron. She didn't care what people thought; she just went right in. She'd asked the heron to watch over Lucy and he always had. Now Lucy had asked him to protect her own girls and he had come to live in their marsh in Connecticut.

"How can a heron watch over a person?" Maddy had whispered to her sister. She didn't have much faith in stories, even though she was only eight years old. In that way, she was very much the skeptic her mother had been.

"He can have two separate lives," Allie was quick to say, as though the answer was simple, if only Maddy could unwind the mysteries of the universe. "He has his heron life up in the sky and his life down here."

"I'm glad he can help us both," Maddy said.

"Don't be ridiculous." Allie was always so definite and sure of herself. "The blue heron only has one true love."

And so it came to be in Allie's book. There was a woman who married a man she loved. The couple lived in a house that resembled the one on the marsh where the sisters had grown up. There were the same tall silver reeds. The same inky black sky. The bride and groom resided in their house made of sticks and stones for nearly a year, in happiness and peace. And then one day, when the man was out fishing for their supper, there was a knock on the door. The woman answered and there was the groom's other wife, a blue heron come to look for her missing husband.

"How can you stand all these children around?" Maddy had asked at an especially crowded reading. They had runny noses. They were germ filled, noisy, and rude. And did they have to laugh so loudly? It was earsplitting.

In Allie's book, the heron wife was wasting away. Her feathers were falling out. She hadn't eaten a mouthful since her husband had left.

One of us wins and one of us loses, but which will it be? she asked the bride at the door.

"They're my readers. I want them to laugh."

Allie was the one who always came home for visits, but at long last Maddy was to be her sister's guest. Frankly, she'd avoided coming to London; she said she was too busy, but it was more than that. She didn't need to see how perfect Allie's world was. Finally, there was no getting around it; there was a wedding to attend to, after all. A wedding where Maddy would once again be the sidekick, the bad little sister who couldn't follow rules, who even as a grown woman was still afraid of ridiculous things, thunderstorms and mice, traffic jams and airplanes. She would most likely be made to wear a horrible dress of some dreadful synthetic fabric while her sister glowed in white silk or satin. Second-rate, second-best, the dark side of everything. She never believed men who told her she was beautiful and she shied away from friendships. She did her work and kept to herself, the sort of woman who could stand idly by while children removed a butterfly's wings or buried a toad in the mud. What people did on their own time was none of her business. Cruelty, after all, was a fact of life. It wasn't up to her to set the world right. That sort of thing was her sister's concern.

Because Maddy was only in London for a long weekend that April, arriving on a Thursday and departing late Monday, she and Allie had raced directly from the airport to the dressmaker's so that Maddy could have her fitting. They'd been close as children, but had grown apart, and were now as different as sisters could be. Allie, however, had done her best to try and choose a dress that would suit Maddy: blue silk, flattering, showing off Maddy's figure. As for Maddy, she hated the dress, but she kept her mouth shut. She had decided she would try to be the agreeable sister for once in her life. She even agreed to taste potential wedding cakes when they were done with the dresses. That was why she was here. To help her sister.

They went to the baker's and tasted half a dozen confections, but the buttercream frostings were too heavy and the chocolates were too rich. Allie hadn't seemed satisfied with anything. She said she thought wedding preparations were a waste of time. In the end, she chose a plain yellow cake that had been made from her own recipe. She hadn't really needed Maddy after all.

Maddy was still in her compliant mode. "Good decision," she said. "Plain is the way to go. Less chance for anything to go wrong."

Not that she believed in that particular philosophy when it came to herself. Plain was good for Allie, not Maddy. Maddy was greedy and she always had been. She used to steal from her sister, headbands, jewelry, T-shirts. If this had been her wedding cake, she would have wanted mousse and jam and chocolate and brandied apricots and spun sugar. There was no such thing as too much for a girl who always thought she was second-best.

The day after the cake-tasting adventure, both sisters were curled up in bed with stomachaches under a comforter. They wore pajamas and socks. When they were children, they hadn't needed anyone but each other; it felt that way again for an hour or two as they sipped cups of tea. But there was no way to regain what Allie had ruined when she'd left home. When it came down to it, they really had nothing in common anymore. It had been seventeen years since Allie had gone to college in Boston. She went off to London in her junior year, returning only for a week or so at a time. She'd deserted Madeline, left her alone in the big house in Connecticut with their parents, who had reunited after several years of leading separate lives. The Hellers had no close neighbors and Maddy had no friends. She was standoffish in the way that lonely people often are. After her sister left, Maddy grew more isolated. Even when she went off to Oberlin, she was the only one who came home for Winter Term or spring break. When Allie's letters arrived, Maddy refused to read them. Instead, she went out to sit in the reeds. On days when the sky was clear she would sometimes see the blue heron who lived there. She had read that most herons live in pairs, the larger male and the more delicate female, coupled for life, but this one was alone. He was far off, across the water. She often called to him, but he didn't seemed to hear her. He never once looked her way.

Allie's flat off of Bayswater was airy but nondescript, not at all Maddy's style. Nothing to envy. Simplicity once again. Allie's wardrobe was full of wool and cashmere in shades of gray and navy and black. Practical clothes that were well tailored. Maddy knew this because she'd sneaked a look in the closet while Allie was in the shower. She felt as though there was a mystery about her sister, some essential detail that would explain her superhuman abilities to do the right thing. She didn't find any clues in all her searching, although she did discover that the single splash of color in the closet was a sheer pink blouse, a birthday present sent by Maddy last fall from Barneys. She couldn't help but notice that the store's tag was still attached.

The day after the wedding cake fiasco, they went out to lunch with the bridesmaids, even though they still had stomachaches. There was Georgia, Allie's best friend, who was the art director of the publishing company that had published Allie's book. Suzy, a transplanted Texan who had been a student along with Allie during junior year and had married an Englishman. She was now the mother of nine-year-old twin girls, so ensconced in her adopted city that she had a lilting British accent. The third friend, Hannah, taught hatha yoga and lived in the same building as Allie. Allie had been one of her students, and still took a class once a week. Hannah was very tall, and she wore white for nearly every occasion. She looked like a cat, as if she could stretch out and bend in two.

"At last, the little sister!" Georgia cried when Allie and Maddy arrived at the luncheon. Allie's friends gathered around to greet Maddy. It was a nicer restaurant than Maddy had expected; small vases of flowers with name tags marked their places at the table. The other bridesmaids told Maddy that they were jealous because she was the only one wearing sky blue silk—they were all in almond-colored linen.

"Yes, but you'll be able to wear those suits for other occasions," Allie explained when her friends complained. "That's why I chose them. Maddy likes extravagant things."

True enough. The other women had noticed that Madeline was overdressed for the occasion; she was wearing a peacock-colored silk blouse and long silver and opal earrings. Well, people could think she was vain if they wanted to; it wasn't a crime to have good taste, after all.

"Maybe that's why she's never come here to see you before," Georgia guessed. "She's been waiting for the big dress-up occasion so she can show off."

"I haven't come because I work," Maddy said.

"And the rest of us don't?" Georgia wasn't one to back down.

"I didn't say that."

"You didn't have to. So what is it you do that keeps you so busy?"

"I'm an attorney," Maddy said.

The other women exchanged a look.

"Is there something wrong with that?" Maddy asked. "Some comment you'd like to make?"

"Well, she's here now," Allie said to her friends. "That's what's important."

All the same, there was a chill at lunch after that. Allie's friends were polite to Maddy, but no more. They discussed things she didn't understand, television series she'd never heard of, books she'd never read. She was once again, by choice or design, the outsider in her sister's life.

When she went to the lavatory, Georgia and Suzy were there. Maddy swore they shut up as soon as they saw her.

"So what's Paul like?" Maddy asked of the bridegroom-to-be as she washed her hands.

She definitely wasn't imagining it: Georgia and Suzy exchanged an odd glance in the mirror.

"Decide for yourself," Suzy said. She sounded extremely Texas, someone you wouldn't want to cross.

"You're her sister," Georgia added as she reapplied some lip gloss. "I'm sure you can make your own judgments."

"They didn't like me," Maddy said to Allie after lunch. Not that it mattered. She didn't care what people thought of her. She was like her grandmother in that way. She did as she pleased, no matter the consequences. She would have waded into a pond in Central Park if need be. Maddy and Allie had decided to walk home from the restaurant. It was spring after all. They cut through Hyde Park, which was so green they couldn't help but think of home, all of those reeds in the marsh, all those places to hide.

"Of course they liked you," Allie said. "Don't be so insecure."

No one else would have guessed Maddy was insecure. But Allie knew she had been a thumb sucker, a blanket holder, a little girl who had been frightened of spiders, afraid of the dark, terrified of mice. Allie would often have to crawl into bed beside Maddy and tell her a story before she could fall asleep. It was their story, the one about the heron, the one they had shared before Allie claimed it for herself and put it into a book.

"Paul will probably hate me, too."

Customer Reviews

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Third Angel 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 119 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Alice Hoffman is amazing. My seventeen year old daughter and I have read all her books. The Third Angel links lives of people through a hotel in London. Her words are so important that my daughter writes down some of the books thoughts on love and life. She gave us yet another gift to share- we both treasured this book. Although my favorite will always be Turtle Moon. My daughter's is Green Angel.
Kaseraa More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing because you can read it over and over and always have a different perpective and notice something different. I love the style of this book because you can read the chapters completely out of order and still get the same overall appeal but in a completely different way. However, I will warn you that it might take a little to get started and it might be frustrating at first because it's a little hard to get into for the fact that you can read any chapter first and it will all make sense. The books characters aren't underdeveloped, but you'll see the need to jump from one person to another, to one timeline to another and so forth. It will all make sense and you'll be begging for more.
LCH47 More than 1 year ago
This is one of those mysterious hauntings that works backwards to solve the case of WHY. Wonderful puzzle pieces, complex, soulful characters, very believable, multi-faceted love,in the 1950's and 1960's time period, all to tantalize you and keep you reading till all hours of the night. ENJOY! WELL WORTH YOUR PURCHASE! Some others that took my very breath away...RAINWATER and EXPLOSION IN PARIS and BEAUTIFUL CREATURES...
WMUEnglishMajor More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It's a little hard to get into at first, but the simplistic writing style eventually got me engrossed in the story. My favorite section was the first part, "The Heron's Wife," but I felt that just as I was getting into it, the second section began and it started to get a little hard to keep track of all the characters and how everyone was connected. Maybe I liked the first part best because I have a sister and we're very close. The characters were well-developed, which makes it easier for the reader to understand their motivations. I liked that the book was not chronological, but I thought this technique was confusing. After I finished the book, I had to go back to the first section in order to understand the ending better. All in all though, this is a beautiful story about love and betrayal and I highly recommend it.
Postrain More than 1 year ago
Once again, I have read an Alice Hoffman book with great admiration for her writing and her style, but find the story much too depressing. I love to read and continually have a store of books waiting in the wings and particularly enjoy great writers. However, I look to books as an escape from reality, not a chance to wallow in the miseries of others. This series of short but related stories is one disaster after another.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was set up weird because it included three seperate stories and while reading it i wasn't sure how they connected to eachother, but when i finished it it all clicked together to make an amazing story. Its unique and thats what makes it so great. THe storyline and characters are captivating and i didn't want it to end. overall it was a great book!
Timberlake More than 1 year ago
This book has an unusual writing style which keeps you reading well after you should be asleep. The characters were well portrayed, both adults and children. Emotions were very descriptive as well as the background to the story. I will be looking to see what else this writer has written, as her refreshing twist of writing captured my imagination.
GinnyW More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed Alice Hoffman in the past but her books tended towards the depressing so I picked up this one hesitantly but fell in love with it. It's a wonderful story about the different ways people love one another. Her characters are complicated and humanly flawed. The story is so artfully written that it could be read backwards as well as forwards. I often pass along books to people when I am finished with them but this one is staying with me.
Bonilyn More than 1 year ago
Alice Hoffman does not disappoint here...she delivers a quirky slice of life. Her characters are real.....the pain and joy they experience are your own as you weave through her story....wonderful
TheCrowdedLeaf More than 1 year ago
I haven't read all of Alice Hoffman's books, but I can easily say that this one is my favorite so far. Three-part plot, interweaving characters, tense story line, realistic emotions and dialogue. A little bit mysterious and special. If you like Hoffman you will love this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was incredibly moving and quite unforgettable. There were several times I could feel the pain and love right alongside the characters. I became so involved with the characters that I was sad to see the book end. This was this first book I read by Alice Hoffman, and the day I finished the book I went to the store and bought two more of her books. I can't wait to read them!
MarionMarchetto_author More than 1 year ago
This offering by Ms. Hoffman is a generational piece whose roots are in the 1950s. The backdrop for most of the story is the Lion Park hotel in London, a second-rate hotel that is haunted. Our first encounter with sisters Maddie and Allie uncovers a betrayal by the younger sister who lives a care-free existence based on the fact that she believes that she was an unloved child. Allie, the older sister, has pretty much done what was expected of her because she has always been the caretaker; first when her mother had cancer and later when her fiance suffers from the same disease. She realizes only too late that she truly loves her fiance and moves swiftly to makes things right only to lose him too. Freida, the fiance's mother, takes up the middle of the book. Her story is set in the 1960s and brought back for this reader 'the look' that was so popular then in London: overly made-up eyes, short mini-skirts, high boots, swingy music, free love, etc. Hoping to escape from the dreariness of a rural youth she makes her way to the Lion Park hotel where she works as a maid. Soon, though, she becomes the muse for a rock-star wanna-be who is hooked on drugs and has a very Paris Hilton-like girlfriend. In the end, Freida puts all of the very trendy and drug-filled life behind her and returns to her rural home where she marries the boyfriend who had gone on to college. She goes on to nursing school herself and lives a very fulfilling life in spite of the ghostly happenings that populated her time working at the Lion Park. The thread that sews it all together is Lucy Green. Lucy is the mother of the two young women we first met at the outset of the story. Inadvertently she is the one who caused the problems that have brought about the haunting of the Lion Park's seventh floor. Having witnessed the deaths of the people involved she withdraws to a secret place inside herself just as she did when her own mother passed away. It takes love in all its simple complexities to bring Lucy into her own once more. This book is a very easy read despite the complexities of the characters we meet. I read it in two sittings and would have accomplished it in one had I not fallen asleep at nearly two in the morning. I give this story four stars simply because I've enjoyed some of Ms. Hoffman's other offerings more. Note: you're bound to fall in love with Millie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is just a wonderful and lovely book filled with beloved people like everyday life. What sets it apart, however, is how the writer approaches each individual's struggle and brings them together in the end. I highly recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you're an Alice Hoffman fan, this book will not disappoint you. Once again she is able to tell a story, bring her characters alive with feeling, and touch our souls. So simple, and yet so heartful, and mystical.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Satisfaction Guaranteed!! A beautifully written story. Definitely one of Alice's best. You will love the characters that are so real and vunerable. What a boring place my world would be if I could not read the amazing words of Alice Hoffman.
hemlokgang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I just plain didn't like the book. Too new agey for me. I did like the idea behind the title, namely the third angel. There is the Angel of Death, the Angel of Life, and the Third Angel, who comes by surprise. When you think you are helping someone else, it turns out that they are helping you. I've had a number of Third Angels in my life.
strogan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
(Received via Member Giveaways)Three women, three different time periods, in love with the wrong types of men, one hotel, Lucy Green, and the Third Angel (an earthly one as opposed to the Angel of Life or the Angel of Death).The Third Angel is a story in three parts and those three parts can be read either in the order they come in (1999, 1966, 1952) or start at the "beginning" (1952) and work your way forward. I liked that set-up and, while I have only read the stories in one direction, I believe the reader will come away with something different depending on the way the book is read.The book was a wonderful read about different facets of everyday people - what they show to others, what they hide, what may (or may not) be seen by others and how perfect strangers may sometimes know us better than our relatives. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a great read.
Edith13 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not great, to be honest. The book this is most like is Knit Two, or whatever its called, a book that i suspect was read only by knitters. Yet another book about London in the Swinging Sixties, written by someone who may or may not have been to Britain, but is absolutely clearly not a Londoner. As a book about London it obviously has to include the following: quaint cottage, Edinburgh, tall Englishman, telephone boxes, ghosts, incredibly implausible co-incidences (there are so few of us on this island that we do pretty much know each other..). This book was one big jump of the shark, but the point of no return was the cameo by a young John Lennon (Britain is very small you know, we bump into the Beatles all the time on our arcane public transport system).Really a let down after so many other good books. No one does paranoid suburban magical realism like Alice Hoffmann.
angelswing on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really loved this book! A great read. I didn't think I would at first, but Hoffman weaves her story so well, I did by the end. I highly recommend this book for a different kind of novel and love story.
lesleydawn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is story of three women who fall in love with the wrong men. It is beautiful and soulful.
AuthorMarion on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This latest offering by Ms. Hoffman is a generational piece whose roots are in the 1950s. The backdrop for most of the story is the Lion Park hotel in London, a second-rate hotel that is haunted. Our first encounter with sisters Maddie and Allie uncovers a betrayal by the younger sister who lives a care-free existence based on the fact that she believes that she was an unloved child. Allie, the older sister, has pretty much done what was expected of her because she has always been the caretaker; first when her mother had cancer and later when her fiance suffers from the same disease. She realizes only too late that she truly loves her fiance and moves swiftly to makes things right only to lose him too. Freida, the fiance's mother, takes up the middle of the book. Her story is set in the 1960s and brought back for this reader 'the look' that was so popular then in London: overly made-up eyes, short mini-skirts, high boots, swingy music, free love, etc. Hoping to escape from the dreariness of a rural youth she makes her way to the Lion Park hotel where she works as a maid. Soon, though, she becomes the muse for a rock-star wanna-be who is hooked on drugs and has a very Paris Hilton-like girlfriend. In the end, Freida puts all of the very trendy and drug-filled life behind her and returns to her rural home where she marries the boyfriend who had gone on to college. She goes on to nursing school herself and lives a very fulfilling life in spite of the ghostly happenings that populated her time working at the Lion Park. The thread that sews it all together is Lucy Green. Lucy is the mother of the two young women we first met at the outset of the story. Inadvertently she is the one who caused the problems that have brought about the haunting of the Lion Park's seventh floor. Having witnessed the deaths of the people involved she withdraws to a secret place inside herself just as she did when her own mother passed away. It takes love in all its simple complexities to bring Lucy into her own once more. This book is a very easy read despite the complexities of the characters we meet. I read it in two sittings and would have accomplished it in one had I not fallen asleep at nearly two in the morning. I give this story four stars simply because I've enjoyed some of Ms. Hoffman's other offerings more. Note: you're bound to fall in love with Millie. Recommended: Practical Magic, The Probable Future
butterflybaby on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A haunted London hotel is the setting of 3 tragic tales. In the first story a young woman falls in love with a man doomed to die. The second involves a woman who tries to save a drug addict. The third is about how the hotel became haunted in the first place. This story is complex and beautiful. I enjoyed the way Hoffman tied the 3 stories together. Alice HOffman is one of my favorite writers; her stories never disappoint.
goodnightmoon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Why did Alice Hoffman stray from her established formula? There was no New England weather, no real magic (excepting the weird ghost explanation), no generations of fated sisters. Yes, some connections appeared in this very linear novel, but with very little circling back to hit home. What was the point? What was the Third Angel?
suzanne5002 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Angel of Life and The Angel of Death. We've all heard of these. But who is The Third Angel? Ahhh...he's the most curious one; the one who is saving your life when you least know she/he is by your side. This is a fascinating read. It begins with 2 sisters; one who is very down-to-earth and the other one is a writer of children's books. Her mother tells her about the heron who is a bird that waits for the one he loves. When the daughter writes her book based on the heron, she writes it in such way that if a person read it either forward or backward, they will always have a happy ending. To me, this book is a timeline of that very nature only in reverse order. It begins in the 90's and ends in the 50's. Hoffman writes about the characters in the 90's and reveals to us their relatives of the past. This wasn't apparent to me until the second half of the book. I was feeling like I was reading history in the reverse order. I have read alot of books by th...more The Angel of Life and The Angel of Death. We've all heard of these. But who is The Third Angel? Ahhh...he's the most curious one; the one who is saving your life when you least know she/he is by your side. This is a fascinating read. It begins with 2 sisters; one who is very down-to-earth and the other one is a writer of children's books. Her mother tells her about the heron who is a bird that waits for the one he loves. When the daughter writes her book based on the heron, she writes it in such way that if a person read it either forward or backward, they will always have a happy ending. To me, this book is a timeline of that very nature only in reverse order. It begins in the 90's and ends in the 50's. Hoffman writes about the characters in the 90's and reveals to us their relatives of the past. This wasn't apparent to me until the second half of the book. I was feeling like I was reading history in the reverse order. I have read alot of books by the author. This was really defnitely different but enjoyed it.
candacekvance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not my favorite Alice Hoffman book, but would still recommend.