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The Story Sistersby Alice Hoffman
Synopses & Reviews
From the New York Times Bestselling author of The Third Angel.
Alice Hoffman's previous novel, The Third Angel, was hailed as "an unforgettable portrait of the depth of true love" (USA Today), "stunning" (Jodi Picoult), and "spellbinding" (Miami Herald).
Her new novel, The Story Sisters, charts the lives of three sisters — Elv, Claire, and Meg. Each has a fate she must meet alone: one on a country road, one in the streets of Paris, and one in the corridors of her own imagination. Inhabiting their world are a charismatic man who cannot tell the truth, a neighbor who is not who he appears to be, a clumsy boy in Paris who falls in love and stays there, a detective who finds his heart's desire, and a demon who will not let go.
What does a mother do when one of her children goes astray?
At once a coming-of-age tale, a family saga, and a love story of erotic longing, The Story Sisters sifts through the miraculous and the mundane as the girls become women and their choices haunt them, change them and, finally, redeem them. It confirms Alice Hoffman's reputation as a "writer whose keen ear for the measure struck by the beat of the human heart is unparalleled". (The Chicago Tribune).
It's a rare year that doesn't bring a novel from Alice Hoffman, and those who follow this maddeningly uneven writer have learned to cast a wary eye on each new offering. Will it be Good Alice, poser of uncomfortable moral dilemmas and marvelously rich portraitist of family life ("Blue Diary," "Skylight Confessions")? Or will it be Bad Alice, blatantly careless plotter and outrageous overdoer of the... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) magic-beneath-the-surface-of-our-lives shtick ("The Probable Future," "The Third Angel")? "The Story Sisters," actually, is In-Between Alice: excessive and overdetermined but ultimately so moving that it overwhelms these faults. Elv, Meg and Claire Story share a secret imaginary world, Arnelle, complete with a private language that they speak to each other. Yes, Hoffman is back in fairy-tale territory. Arnelle made its appearance after 11-year-old Elv rescued 8-year-old Claire from a child molester and was abused in her stead — the random intrusion of malevolent fate that this author has explored many times before. Grin and bear it, readers, because a brilliantly detailed delineation of ever-shifting power relations among siblings and a beautiful portrait of love's redemptive power are twined around the fey Arnelle material and grim recollections of the abuse. (Still, Hoffman should trust her readers to get the point — Elv will never be the same; Claire feels guilty — without endless repetition.) The main narrative begins when Elv is 15; she's dangerously reckless, taking drugs and sleeping around, to the horror of sensible Meg, who knows nothing about the abduction her sister endured four years earlier. Claire, meanwhile, seesaws between her siblings but increasingly turns to Meg. Their mother decides the only thing to do is incarcerate Elv in rehab, despite the carping of her self-absorbed ex-husband, one of the novel's many vividly realized secondary characters. At the brutal facility, Elv meets a junkie who provides her first taste of heroin but also brings her the love she's always dreamed about, "the kind that turns you inside out." After Elv comes home, she's responsible for a death that estranges her from the family, but a series of poignant scenes shows her tentative attempts to reconnect. Many years after the party that introduced us to the Story sisters, a wedding in Paris provides them a tender opportunity to reconcile. This radiant finale reminds us what a satisfying novelist Alice Hoffman can be, when she feels like it. Reviewed by Wendy Smith, who reviews frequently for the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Her alluring characters are soulful, their suffering mythic, and though the sorrows are many and the body count high, this is an entrancing and romantic drama..." Booklist
"A radiant denouement shows love redeeming the surviving sisters, and there are beautiful moments throughout, but they don't entirely compensate for Hoffman's excesses of plot and tone. A near-miss..." Kirkus Reviews
A family is shattered when one of three sisters dies tragically in an automobile accident. How the family survives — separates, reconfigures, and reconciles — is at the heart of this exquisite exploration of the ties that bind.
About the Author
Alice Hoffman is the bestselling author of nearly twenty acclaimed novels beloved by teens and adults, including Aquamarine and Practical Magic, both made into major motion pictures, as well as The Foretelling, Green Angel, The Ice Queen, and Here on Earth (an Oprah Book Club selection). She has also written the highly praised story collections Local Girls and Blackbird House. The author lives outside of Boston.
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