cover image Red Heart Memories Hc

Red Heart Memories Hc

Nina Kiriki Hoffman. Ace Books, $21.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-441-00651-9

It's a pleasure to see a new adult novel from Hoffman, even a lesser work like this one. Her debut novel, The Thread that Binds, won a Stoker for best first novel, but of late she has been writing for R.L. Stine's Ghosts of Fear Street series. This is an innocuous tale of three nomads who become friends and confront the problems in their past. Matt Black is not a witch, but she does have two special powers: ""dream-eyes,"" which allow her to see others' mental landscapes, and the ability to communicate with inanimate objects. After years of wandering alone, Matt is surprised to meet another ""special"" person: Edmund, a witch who has been ""blowing from here to there,"" using ""spirit"" to ""help things fix themselves."" The two quickly become companions and decide to retrace Edmund's life to find out why he is so alone. They visit his childhood friends, including Susan, who becomes part of the group. It turns out that the three all suffer from the effects of traumatic experiences: incest led to self-abusive ""zoned"" years for Matt; Susan has avoided friendship ever since she fled her controlling father; Edmund's self literally fragmented after he destroyed a man while protecting himself. Hoffman handles the interconnected solutions to the trio's problems with skill, as each solution leads subtly to greater understanding and compassion. At times, however, the characters' long talks skirt perilously close to pop psychology masquerading as wisdom: ""He did the only thing he could, because that's what happened. The only place we can change anything is right now."" Hoffman's ""comfort magic"" is even less successful--Edmund's vague ""spirit"" and ""gold"" powers are ill defined, little more than ornaments in a quiet tale of three injured souls helping each other toward happiness. (Oct.)