I knew Alice Hoffman’s Survival Lessons would make me cry, and it did. But I plan to trade the library book for one I will own, and read it again and again – and have its small presence propped prominently on a shelf where I can see it everyday.
Depending on where you are in your life, Hoffman’s book will have different meanings. Like most memoirs or self-help books, Survival Lessons tells you what you already know, but the reminders are powerful. Watching someone you love go through a health crisis can make you forget the saving choices she lists in her title chapters: choose to enjoy yourself, choose your friends, choose how you spend your time, choose to plan for the future, choose to dream, choose to be yourself, and a dozen or so others that Hoffman sprinkles with her own experiences and even a recipe for a killer brownie. Basically, her message is to choose what matters most and be there with “loyalty and kindness.”
Not so much inspirational but Hoffman’s words make a connection. Read it when you need it.
With her trademark mix of magic and trauma, Alice Hoffman’s The River King has an uncanny scary quality that marks how the world deals with injustice. First published in July, 2000, sadly, the world has not changed and Hoffman’s cautions are still relevant.
As a fan of Hoffman, I’ve read Practical Magic and The Red Garden, but found this Gothic tale of high school bullies and small town rivalries through a recent review by a fellow writer. The story is set at a New England boarding school, centered around Carlin and Gus, the misfit scholarship students who have trouble connecting with their wealthy fellows; Abel, the handsome local police detective; and Betsy, the photography teacher who snaps a picture of a ghost. A death, with some supernatural aftereffects, initiates the action – revealing the underbelly of society in the small town and the exclusive institution. With characteristic attention to the true nature of her principals, Hoffman weaves a tale of romance and mystery – solving a crime in the end as well as connecting those seeking true love.
Full of ghosts and mysterious happenings – appropriate for this time of year – a spooky Halloween tale, with a little social conscience thrown in – and Hoffman’s lyrical descriptions of people and places.