Saturday, September 5, 2009

Second Nature - Alice Hoffman

Summary: Robin Moore never wanted to be anyone's savior. But when she sees a beautiful and innocent man mistaken for a beast, she does something she never thought she'd do: she rescues him and takes him home with her. Only there, on the tiny island where people are trying ot lead a perfect suburban life, close--but not too close--to nature, does Robin begin to realize the intricacy of what it means to be human.

Second Nature is a modern fairytale about a place where all things are possible: where deer can weep, and winter ice turn blood-red, and roses bloom all at once--and where love has nothing to do with common sense. It is a spellbinding story that hints at unexpected answers to timeless questions, questions about innocence and wickenness, desire and obsession. (summary from book jacket - image from

My review: Robin didn’t even think about it when she rescued the Wolf Man from life in a mental ward. She just knew she had to. As "Stephen" readjusts to life in the human world, Robin and and her son, Connor, try desperately to keep his secret from a world that they know will not understand. However, when family pets start disappearing and their own cat ends up covered in blood in the front yard, Stephen’s secret gets out and suspicion of him grows.

I usually fall head over heels for Hoffman in about 3.5 seconds. Her books just have a feeling about them--of depth and emotion--that is hard to explain but easy to feel. There is something hypnotic about her use of language that lets me sink comfortably, effortlessly into the story.

This time, however, I wasn’t quite as entranced. Don’t get me wrong. I really like the story. I loved uncovering the secret lives of seemingly innocent characters and wondering what was going to happen next when things really started to get dicey. The side stories between various supporting characters (like Ginny and Old Dick or Kay and Stuart) were some of my favorite parts of the book.

Unfortunately, I just didn’t feel the same mysterious pull that I have experienced when reading some of her other books (Blackbird House, Aquamarine, Green Angel, Incantation, etc.) She also used the F-word more liberally than she usually does and far more than I would’ve liked. Since I wasn’t feeling the same way about this book as her others, that kind of tipped the scales for me.

For those of you who got excited by the words "modern fairytale" in the summary - don't. There is a woman and a supposed "beast" and some adversity but this is NOT a whimsical, romantic retelling of Beauty and the Beast. If you expect happily-ever-after, you'll be sorely disappointed.

My rating: 3 Stars (the last 1/3 of this book really saved it for me). For the sensitive reader be warned there are sexual situations and bouts of profanity.

Sum it up: An okay story, but not as good as some of her others.

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