In the full flowering of her extraordinary talent, Hoffman has produced a wise, poignant and uplifting novel luminous with the sensitive evocation of ordinary lives. The setting is a Long Island, N.Y., housing development from 1959 to 1960, a place of conforming, happy families where husbands mow the lawns of the tract houses and wives meet for coffee, where ``safety hung over the neighborhood like a net.'' The arrival of Nora Silk, a brassy divorcee with two young children, is the catalyst for disturbing changes and events, some of them violent. Plucky, impetuous, innocently seductive and a messy housekeeper, Nora is anathema to the subdivision wives, who ostracize her and whose children torment her eight-year-old clairvoyant son, Billy. But as Nora's presence disturbs the community, it is slowly revealed that behind the identical facades of the houses are secret lives of turmoil, restlessness and longing. As in all Hoffman novels, mundane existence is disrupted in surprising ways: families disintegrate, a teenager dies, a placid housewife disappears. And ultimately Nora, whose optimism about her dead-end life is unquenchable, becomes an instrument of healing. Hoffman has intuitive grasp of the thoughts and feelings that are masked by conventional behavior. Like some of her characters, she seems to have a spooky ability to read thoughts; how else to account for her unerring understanding of people of nearly every age and across a broad social spectrum? She has a gift for perceiving the cruelty of children and the wide gulf that yawns between the most loving, attentive parents and their offspring's unknown wishes and deeds. As usual, she tells more than a compulsively readable story. She does magic, she unsettles you and she leaves you feeling emotionally purged and satisfied. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selections. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1990 Release date: 08/01/1990 Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-1-85381-263-7
Mass Market Paperbound - 279 pages - 978-0-449-22018-4
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