Alice Hoffman

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Date: Apr. 24, 2015
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Biography
Length: 5,463 words
Content Level: (Level 4)
Lexile Measure: 1240L

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About this Person
Born: March 16, 1952 in New York, New York, United States
Nationality: American
Occupation: Novelist
Updated:Apr. 24, 2015
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Human loss, frailties and fears, and the routines of everyday life stood on its head with a touch of magical realism--these qualities in part delineate the boundaries of the fictional landscape created by Alice Hoffman in her novels, short stories, and screenplays. Blending folklore, symbolism, and eccentric characters with the domestic novel of manners, Hoffman has won readers of all ages with such best sellers as At Risk,, Turtle Moon, , Practical Magic, and Illumination Night. "The hallmarks" of Hoffman's style, according to Alexandra Johnson writing in Boston Review, are "a shimmering prose style, the fusing of fantasy and realism, [and] the preoccupation with the way the mythic weaves itself into the everyday. . . . Hoffman's narrative domain is the domestic, the daily. Yet her vision--and voice--are lyrical." Johnson went on to compare Hoffman's fictional world to that of a painting by the seventeenth century Dutch master Jan Vermeer: "a beautifully crafted study of the interior life."

Part of Hoffman's appeal is her scope; she has viewed the drama of American in the late twentieth century through the eyes of adolescent and teenage narrators, as well as through those of adults of all ages and classes. The author Frederick Busch, writing in the New York Times Book Review, has pointed out that Hoffman "charms us into caring for her characters." He also noted that the author "writes quite wonderfully about the magic in our lives and in the battered, indifferent world." Her stories range from romance in gangland to intergenerational relationships in a Long Island family; from incest in California to coming to terms with one's desires in Martha's Vineyard; from the plight of an adolescent AIDS victim, to a family of New England women who deal in magic. Characteristic of all Hoffman's novels is the counterpoint of her lush prose and offbeat characters, the jarring mix of magical events and everyday settings.

East Coast Upbringing

Alice Hoffman was born on March 6, 1952. She was the daughter of a real estate salesman and a social worker. When Hoffman was eight, her parents divorced and she was raised by her mother, in Franklin Square, Long Island. Hoffman once told Stella Dong in a 1985 Publishers Weekly interview that her mother "wasn't like all the other mothers in the neighborhood. She read a lot and had been to university. She wasn't domestic in the way that was expected of mothers at the time." Her love of books rubbed off on her daughter, and Alice Hoffman read voraciously as a youngster: science fiction, fairy tales, and anything to do with magic. "I was crazy about Mary Poppins and the Nesbit books and Edward Eager," she told Dong. "I really loved those stories that begin with a normal family and then all of a sudden, something magical enters their lives. Those are really wonderful books--especially when you're a kid and your own family's not so wonderful . . . just the idea that you could stumble upon all sorts of magical things."

An avid reader, Hoffman also began writing at a young age, keeping a notebook that detailed alternate identities for herself, and sketching story lines. She did not enjoy high school, and upon graduation she contemplated becoming a beautician. Instead, she went to college at Adelphi University in Garden City, New Jersey. There, various professors encouraged her to write. The stories Hoffman created in these years earned her a prestigious Mirelles Fellowship to Stanford University's renowned M.F.A. program in creative writing. Hoffman headed west in 1973, ready to learn the writer's craft. Studying under Albert Guerard at Stanford, whom Hoffman hailed in her Publishers Weekly interview as "possibly the best writing teacher in the country," the apprentice writer gained new confidence in her technique. As she told Dong, "That's when I felt that maybe I really could write after all."

Hoffman was also influenced during this time by such female authors as Doris Lessing, Margaret Drabble, Grace Paley, and Anne Tyler, and by the work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, specifically by his groundbreaking work of magical realism, One Hundred Years of Solitude. Writing in the New York Times Book Review in May 1984, Hoffman acknowledged that the Marquez novel "changed everything for her." She now saw how the writer was free to transform the mundane into the fabulous by employing magical, fantastical, mythic, and sometimes surreal elements. Hoffman earned her master's degree in 1975, and following graduation she attended the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference in Vermont.

Short Stories Lead to First Novel

Hoffman published her first short stories in magazines from Ms to the American Review. One of these stories captured the attention of a New York editor who queried Hoffman about anything novel-length that she might have in the works. Assuring the editor she had a book underway, Hoffman quickly went to work on her first novel, Property Of, which was published in 1977.

The story of a year in the life of a 17-year-old female protagonist, Property Of looks at gangs, violence, and drugs. The unnamed protagonist falls for McKay, the leader of an urban gang that claims street territory in the suburbs of New York; and the young girl, from a middle-class family, becomes the "property" of McKay. Their relationship is a troubled one, punctuated by violence and the use of drugs. Though the girl finally breaks with McKay, she becomes addicted to heroin. Reviewing this first novel in the New York Times Book Review, Michael Mewshaw felt that Hoffman "views life as through the jagged prisms of a broken whisky bottle or a haze of heroin" and that "she brings a fierce personal intensity to it." Despite what Mewshaw found to be "stylistic tics," he praised Property Of as an "impressive debut."

Richard R. Lingeman writing in the New York Times described the novel as "[A] remarkably envisioned novel, almost mythic in its cadences, hypnotic." Lingeman concluded, "Alice Hoffman imbues her juvenile delinquents with a romantic intensity that lifts them out of sociology." Writing in the Yale Review, Edith Milton also thought that Hoffman's writing elevated her characters: "Hoffman creates characters touched by legend. . . . In a way, Property Of is a novel about our sentimental myths and romances as much as it is a novel about street gangs."

Buoyed by such critical acclaim, Hoffman began a second novel, this time turning to family dynamics with The Drowning Season. Long Island is the setting for this "fierce and wicked fairytale of these 'modern times,'" as Jerome Charyn described the novel in the New York Times Book Review. Esther the White is an aging witch and grandmother. She lives in a compound with her son, Phillip, who likes to try to drown himself during the Drowning Season of July and August; with Phillip's keeper, Cohen, who continually saves Philip; with her daughter-in-law; and, with her grandchild, Esther the Black. "Alice Hoffman has an extraordinary sense of the fabulous," Charyn noted, while Jean Strouse wrote in Newsweek: "Alice Hoffman's hallucinatory novel skims along just above the surface of the real, like a finely wrought nightmare."

Long Island is also the setting for Hoffman's third novel, Angel Landing, "a good, old-fashioned love story," according to a somewhat tongue-in-cheek Suzanne Freeman in Washington Post Book World. Beginning with the explosion of a half-built nuclear power plant, the story unfolds through the eyes of a "sensitive and intelligent observer, alienated from her surroundings," as Miriam Sagan characterized the book's heroine in a Ms review. Freeman concluded that "Alice Hoffman's writing has the magic that makes us want to believe it."

Hoffman's next book was White Horse, a novel that reviewer Ann Tyler of the New York Times Book Review observed "combines the concrete and the dreamlike" within its compass. On one level, White Horse is the story of a young girl's obsession with her older brother; on the other, it is a mythic tale, dealing with legendary outlaws who appear out of nowhere riding their white horses westward. Hermione Lee, reviewing White Horse for the London newspaper the Observer, called it a "pullulating tale of incest, magic and myth in a California landscape." Newsweek's Peter S. Prescott commented, "I found reading this novel to be like eating my way through a pan of fudge; it's probably fattening and certainly not the kind of fare you can live on, but once in a while the sheer sensual delinquency is fun."

While pregnant with her first child, Hoffman came up with the idea for her fifth novel, Fortune's Daughter. In this tale the "sense of magic and elemental force arises from the central mystery of childbirth," according to Perri Klass, writing in the New York Times Book Review. Rae, deserted by her boyfriend after she has given up everything for him, is about to give birth to her first child and consults Lila, a fortune-teller, for some good words. Years earlier, Lila gave up for adoption her own child, a daughter. In Rae's tea leaves, Lila sees a child's death, and assumes it will be Rae's baby. However, what she has actually seen is her own baby, who has died in childhood, as Lila learns after looking up the girl's adoptive parents. Perri Klass pointed to the "confident" writing in Fortune's Daughter, which is "powerfully and essentially laconic, but . . . also lush"; to the "rich, vivid and sharp" description," and the "offbeat humor" that "keeps the narrative from drifting into melodrama." Susan Lardner, writing in the New Yorker, felt there were no "lasting surprises" in Fortune's Daughter, and that the "euphoria" of Hoffman's ending wears off, "leaving the reader with a gullible feeling and certain questions." Reviewer Patricia Meyer Spacks complained of "Soap opera sentimentalities of plot and characterization" which produce a novel that "almost--but not quite--transcends its sentimentalities and its often arbitrary handling of character and event." Other critics, such as Susan Dooley of Washington Post Book World, were more positive about Hoffman's fifth novel. Dooley wrote that "Hoffman is a marvelous writer with a painter's eye who takes the landscape of ordinary people experiencing ordinary emotions and colors them in unexpected ways."

For her sixth novel, Illumination Night, Hoffman turned to a Massachusetts setting, using Martha's Vineyard as the backdrop for what Newsweek's Laura Shapiro termed a "splendid, witchy account of faith and seduction." Hoffman presents readers with six intersecting and sometimes colliding lives. "From a technical as well as emotional standpoint, this is an impressive, stirring performance," Jack Sullivan of the Washington Post Book World commented. Meanwhile, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt of the New York Times noted, "Ms. Hoffman writes so simply about human passions that her characters are branded onto one's memory." Gwyneth Cravens remarked in the New York Times Book Review, "Subtle touches here and there make this intelligent novel shine." Meanwhile, Alexandra Johnson wrote in the Boston Review, "Illumination Night is a powerful if often disturbing look at the interior lives, domestic and emotional, of a young family and the teenage girl set on destroying them all."

Critical Acclaim

Although her literary novels had won critical praise, Hoffman still had not scored a real commercial success. Publication of her seventh book, At Risk, changed all that. Hoffman earned a $150 thousand advance, and the initial print run was 100,000 copies. This story of an adolescent stricken with AIDS took off after publication, showing up on the national best seller lists and being optioned for six figures to Twentieth-Century Fox movie studios. A result of Hoffman's own musings about how she would feel if her son were at school with another child who had AIDS, At Risk tells the story of 11-year-old Amanda Farrell, daughter of a comfortable middle-class family and a gifted gymnast, who contracts the virus from a blood transfusion. The novel chronicles Amanda's losing battle with AIDS and her final acceptance of the inevitable diagnosis. She is aided in this effort by a local psychic, while her family comes asunder, and relationships with the community and those around her fall apart.

"There is no easy emotional catharsis here," wrote Newsweek's Shapiro, "just an abundance of life that becomes, in the course of the novel, more buoyant and powerful than death and ultimately more convincing." Writing in the Chicago Tribune Books, Michele Souda lauded Hoffman's "flawless prose." Souda went on to note that Hoffman did not "capitulate" to the political side of the AIDS issue, but rather took "the nightmare of our time, stripped it of statistics and social rhetoric, and placed it in the raw center of family life."

However, some critics questioned Hoffman's use of such a hot-button issue. For example, Wall Street Journal reviewer Donna Rifkind commented on what she found to be "flat caricatures" and what she felt was exploitation of the AIDS subject "for its sentimental appeal." Rifkind added, "One can only conclude that one of Alice Hoffman's particular hopes regarding this book was that the subject of AIDS would sell." However, such criticism was the exception. More typical were the comments of a School Library Journal reviewer who wrote, "The characterization is sensitive, realistic, and intense. This is a book of deep and honest emotions."

Hoffman moved away from contemporary topics with her next novel, Seventh Heaven, set in the Long Island suburbs in 1959. A divorced woman named Nora Silk disturbs some of the peace of a quiet and idyllic community with her unconventional ways, including witchcraft. Although it takes time, finally the community accepts the newcomer. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Alida Becker commented, "Hoffman is out to remind us that all those suburban stereotypes, creaky facades though they may often be, are propped up by some very real, and very basic, hopes and fears."

Turtle Moon, Hoffman's ninth novel, is set in a sleepy Florida town. Lucy Rosen and her son, Keith, have just relocated to Florida from New York and wish to begin their lives anew. As usual, Hoffman blends magical elements into the realistic story, in this case a ghost who wanders about the small town. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews described the novel as a "mix of murder and magic in the Florida sunshine," while a writer for Publishers Weekly commented, "Hoffman's new novel has commercial success written all over it." Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Frederick Bush concluded, "Alice Hoffman has written a magnificent examination of a troubled child about whom her readers will care enormously."

Second Nature is a story of a wild man who has been raised by wolves, and who provides a lonely suburban woman with a new lease on life. Booklist's Donna Seaman commented on Hoffman's "penchant for tossing bits of magic, romance, and murder into otherwise ordinary domestic dramas of divorce and parenthood." Seaman added that whereas such a mix had been "salad-like" in other novels, with Second Nature "the ingredients blend into a rich and satisfying concoction." A contributor for Kirkus Reviews concluded, "Once again, Hoffman stirs up the unlikely with the ordinary and seasons it, expertly, deliciously, with our darkest desires--her fans should wolf it down." And Howard Frank Mosher, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called Hoffman's tale "magical and daring. . . . [Hoffman's] richest and wisest, as well as her boldest, novel to date."

Prestidigitation as Technique and Message

Practical Magic, published in 1995, was Hoffman's eleventh novel. Once again, the author mixes magic with the mundane in telling the story of a New England dynasty of matriarchs, the Owens. The novel focuses on two of these women: the sisters Sally and Gillian, who are raised by aunts, and who have followed very different paths in life from the days when as young girls they would sneak downstairs to hear their aunts prescribing love potions for all the women of the town. But Sally and Gillian determine never to be afflicted with such sickness brought on by love. Gillian moves from man to man; while Sally follows a more settled lifestyle, she still manages to harness her emotions to her family. Writing in the Chicago Tribune Books, Penelope Mesic observed that "the book's deepest appeal is perhaps the sex-specific," and that Practical Magic is "fundamentally a novel about women whose lives are given value by their relations to other women." Michiko Kakutani, reviewing the novel in the New York Times, had doubts about Hoffman's use of magical realism in the novel: "None of the surreal events in Practical Magic is remotely organic to the main characters' lives or the larger public world they inhabit." Kakutani observed. He also found Hoffman's use of such techniques created "cloying cutesiness and willful contrivance." But Lorna Sage, reviewing the novel in Times Literary Supplement, described Hoffman's approach as "Erica Jong meets Garrison Keillor," adding that "The magic in Hoffman's plots is pervasive, but at the same time no big deal. . . . Forget the magic, this is fiction as an alternative therapy."

In Here on Earth, Hoffman's twelfth novel, she creates what Karen Karbo in the New York Times Book Review hailed as "a Wuthering Heights for the 90s." The novel is the story of a middle-aged mother who falls in love with the bad-boy crush of her youth and who takes her teenage daughter with her when she leaves her husband for this former love. The story "is by turns inspired, profound and dreadful," according to Karen Karbo. Kirkus Reviews termed it "A chilly, hopeless love story with an unhappy conclusion. Hard to see what readers will find to like in such a tale." But Rita M. Fontinha, reviewing the novel in Kliatt, felt differently. "Hoffman's new book may also be her best," she commented. "[It is] a lyrical and dramatic love story, set in a bleak and wintry landscape."

Hoffman's next novel, published in 2000, was The River King, a book that once again uses a murder to throw a town and its citizens in stark relief. Blue Diary, published in 2001, tells the story of Ethan Ford, a highly respected member of small town Monroe, Massachusetts, who has a concealed past. When Monroe's sheriff arrives at Ford's to arrest him on a 15-year-old murder charge, Ford readily admits his guilt because he feels he is no longer the same person who committed the murder. But his neighbors and family have more difficulty putting the pieces in place. His son doesn't want to see him, and his wife feels that her married life has up to then been founded on a lie. Ultimately she must ask at what price, if any, forgiveness must come. Kirkus Reviews called the book "a welcome return to top form by a gifted, popular author." A reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle called it "a complex and haunting story of how human beings transform themselves not because of their wants but in spite of them."

The Probable Future again brings readers back to a small New England town blanketed in magic. The women of the Sparrow family have unusual gifts; one can smell lies, one can see dreams, and another can predict death. These gifts become curses when a prediction is misleading and a close family member is imprisoned for a murder he did not commit. Reviewing the book for the New England Science Fiction Association, Elisabeth Carey wrote, "...[t]he plot is not the point. The focus of this book is the engaging, and ultimately optimistic, story of the tangled relationships of the Sparrow women and their friends and relations."

Hoffman weaves multiple stories into one coherent novel about an emotionally distressed and tangled family living in Cape Cod in 2004's Blackbird House. "All the tales are typically lush and lyrical; Hoffman's lovely writing style makes her books a delight to read," wrote a reviewer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Her follow -up, The Ice Queen, was another commercial success. In this book, Hoffman tells the story of a woman who has never once longed for a close relationship with another person. One day, the woman wishes to be struck by lightning. When she receives her wish, she does not die, but begins a brand new life--and a new relationship with a fellow lightning-strike survivor. The novel was deemed "stunning" and "electrifying" in the Chicago Sun-Times, and Amy Waldman of People wrote that it was "nothing less than stellar." Waldman added, "Whether evoking the sultry landscape of southern Florida or the layers of ice around the librarian's heart, Hoffman reminds us how little distance there is between magic and mundane."

Hoffman's Skylight Confessions was released in 2007. It follows Arlyn Singer as she copes with the death of her father, meets the man she will marry, and raises a twisted and emotional family in a haunted, glass house. True to Hoffman's style, the book weaves magical elements into everyday life. Barbara Vancheri of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called Skylight Confessions a "spell bounding tale." She added, "Like one of her characters precariously perched on a roof between heaven and earth, Alice Hoffman seems to exist in a world just out of our reach."

The Third Angel was another hit for Hoffman. In this book--which includes flashbacks from to the 1950s and 1960s, but is set mostly in the 1990s--the reader finds three women, hopelessly in love with the wrong men, in the same hotel. One pines after her sister's fiance ,é, another is about to be married but is still in love with an ex, and yet another has become a rock star's brokenhearted groupie. A fourth woman, Lucy Green, also plays a part in the novel when she arrives at the hotel, looking for the Third Angel--a man she believes will lead to her to a life of happiness. Reviewing the novel, Sharon Eberson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote, "Alice Hoffman injects magic realism into everything she writes, and not just the conjuring of ghostly apparitions, spiritual awakenings and uncanny coincidences. Language, plot and relationships also revolve in mystical harmony in her latest novel, which has the otherworldly elements Hoffman is known for, plus the down-to-earth struggles of characters in love or those who hunger for it."

In 2009, Hoffman published her twenty-first novel. The Story Sisters invites readers into the lives of three sisters: Elv, Meg, and Claire. They all invent a fairy tale world and speak a private language, but Elv and Claire share a bond that Meg does not understand. When the girls lived in New York with their mother, Elv came to Claire's rescue when she was attacked by a child molester--and paid the price for it. Since then, the family has moved to Paris to be with their grandmother, but the girls cannot leave the memories in the past. Their lives are spiraling out of control; Elv has begun abusing drugs while Claire has sunk into a deep depression. Though they've drifted in recent years, the Story sisters must work together and rely on one another to get through this point in their lives. The Story Sisters did not receive many positive reviews from critics. Wendy Smith of the Washington Post called Hoffman an "uneven writer" and the book "excessive and over-determined but ultimately so moving that it overwhelms these faults." Roberta Silman of the Boston Globe wrote that "Hoffman seemed to be discovering the world as she wrote" the book and that the "vision, characters, and even the prose seem tired."

Two years later, in March 2011 , Hoffman responded to critics with The Red Garden, a novel formed through a collection of stories dating back to 1750 . The book describes the development of the Massachusetts town of Blackwell. It brings to life magical historical figures such as Johnny Appleseed and Emily Dickinson and tells of the discovery of electricity and the tragedy of World War II. Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Valerie Miner said the book would either leave readers "haunted or maddened." Regardless of the feelings evoked by the book, Miner writes, "you have to nod to Hoffman's artistic daring and nimble imagination."

In the fall of 2011, Hoffman released The Dovekeepers, which was described as her "masterpiece" on her Web site. Set in 70 AD, it delivers the imagined account of the four Jewish women and two children who survived the Roman slaughtering in the town of Masada. Hoffman spent five years researching the event, focusing mainly on the piece "The Jewish War" by Flavius Josephus, a Jewish soldier turned Roman historian. Reviews of the novel were mixed. USA Today called the book "a thrilling, passionate saga" that "pulses toward its stunning climax." The New York Times labeled it a "hoopla sandwich" with "middling descriptions, hackneyed characters and histrionic plot twists." The Washington Post summarized the entire book as "a high-minded feminist story of unassailable seriousness." Despite these critiques, the book spent multiple weeks on USA Today''s list of best sellers .

Work for a Different Audience

Hoffman is also the author of several picture books for young readers, including Fireflies and Horseflies. She also wrote the 1999 collection of linked stories called Local Girls. Like several of her novels, Hoffman sets the short story collection in a sleepy Long Island suburb. Spanning the course of a decade, the inter-related tales are often narrated by and focus on the activities of Gretel Samuelson and her family, and covercovering the period from Gretel's adolescence to her adulthood. "Odd mystical moments crop up now and then as Gretel, starved for miracles, seesaws between wonder and sorrow," commented Sarah Ferguson in the New York Times Book Review. However, Ferguson ultimately felt that the stories, many of which were originally published in magazines, "suffer from a debilitating overlap when they're read as a collection." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly, on the other hand, commented that although "dysfunctional family fiction seems standard fare these days, Hoffman's knack for creating a sense of specific atmosphere is uncanny and unique." School Library Journal's Jackie Gropman praised Hoffman's narrative voice, writing that "the language is wisecracking, scintillating, descriptive, and honest."

In 2001, Hoffman published Aquamarine,, a novel for young readers. In the story, two girlhood friends, about to be separated as one of the girl's families prepares to move away, discover a mermaid living at the bottom of a debilitated beach club. The mermaid refuses to leave the pool until she has met the handsome snackbar cook, even though she faces death in the chlorinated water. As the two girls succeed with their plan to help their new friend, they acquire greater self- confidence about who they are and about their futures. Publishers Weekly said of the book, "Hoffman creates an apt metaphor for that twilight time between childhood and adolescence when magic still seems possible and friendships run deep and true."

In 2002 Hoffman released yet another young adult title, Indigo, which tells the story of three teens who wish to leave their town of Oak Grove in search of a large body of water to call home. Brothers Trout and Eel need room to work their webbed feet and Martha simply needs to start her life over. A reviewer for Publisher's Weekly wrote, "An accomplished storyteller, Hoffman deftly interweaves themes of friendship, identity, and the tension between family ties and freedom that adolescence inevitably brings."

The following year's 2003 release, Green Angel, reflects upon the aftermath of a 9/11-like event. A 15-year-old girl named Green copes with the weight of her grief by attempting to bring her garden, now dead and buried under ash, back to life. As she struggles to come to terms with recent events, she finds herself turning to two new friends she meets in her garden: a dog and his mute owner. Kirkus Reviews called the work "spare" and "haunting," while the School Library Journal said that it was "beautifully written." The reviewer added, "This is both a survival story and an homage to the need to cherish life's every moment."

The next two years saw back-to-back releases from Hoffman for her younger readers. The Foretelling in 2005 reached back in history to tell the story of a girl raised by Amazons. At first, Rain believes that she wants to follow in her mother and sisters' footsteps and become a true warrior, but after the foretellin g, an ancient event that predicts pieces of her future, she must decide if she truly wishes to live a life of war or if she should try instead to find a life full of peace, love, and mercy. Incantation, released in 2006, took readers into the past, once again, with the story of Estrella, a Spanish Jew pretending to be a practicing Catholic during the Spanish Inquisition. Hoffman received multiple awards for this title, including the Massachusetts Book Award. It was also named the ALA best book for young adults.

In 2010 Hoffman published Green Witch, the sequel to Green Angel. Still haunted by the loss of her family and now struggling to accept the disappearance of the boy she loves, Green chooses to leave her home and search for her answers to questions that have been on her mind. She meets a few witches along the way who offer her guidance and hope. Kirkus Reviews noted that this novel was "[j]ust the thing for readers eager to be captured by a tale of sundered hearts rendered in lyrical prose."

In 2014, Hoffman published an adult novel entitled The Museum of Extraordinary Things. The story is set in New York City in the year 1911. It focuses on Coralie Sardie, an eighteen year old girl forced to perform as a mermaid in a freak show. The Museum of Extraordinary Things features a variety of powerful themes, such as the historic exploitation of women and the working class.

Hoffman followed The Museum of Extraordinary Things with the young adult novel Nightbird. The book revolves around a young girl named Twig, whose family is cursed. All the men in Twig's family are born with wings. For this reason, Twig is forced to keep her older brother secret from the rest of the town. The plot thickens when descendants of the witch who cursed Twig's family move in next door.

Hoffman continues to entertain and to ask probing questions about love and loss in contemporary America. With her own unique spin on magical realism, she has looked at subjects from AIDS to gangs, and has taken the her readers from the suburbs to small-town America. As Frederick Bush noted in the New York Times Book Review, "the soul is part of the action of the novel, but Ms. Hoffman's writing about it doesn't make an adult reader feel as if he's sneaking a quick half-hour of cutesy cartoons on television." Hoffman's use of magic is integral to her art in Bush's opinion. "[She] grounds her attention to magic and things of the spirit with a particularity and an insistence of the everyday," he noted.


Born March 16, 1952, in New York, NY; married Tom Martin (a writer); children: Jake, Zack. Education: Adelphi University, B.A., 1973; Stanford University, M.A., 1975. Addresses: Home--Boston, MA. Web


Writer, 1975--.


Mirelles fellow, Stanford University, 1975; Bread Loaf fellowship, summer, 1976; Notable Books of 1979 list, Library Journal, for The Drowning Season; Massachusetts Book Award, ALA Best Books for Young Adults, A Historical Novels Review Editors' Choice Book, An Association of Jewish Libraries Teen Honor Book, An NYPL Book for the Teen Age, all for Incantation, 2007.



  • 1977: Property Of, Farrar, Straus.
  • 1979: The Drowning Season, Dutton.
  • 1980: Angel Landing, Putnam.
  • 1982: White Horses, Putnam.
  • 1985: Fortune's Daughter, Putnam.
  • 1987: Illumination Night, Putnam.
  • 1988: At Risk, Putnam.
  • 1990: Seventh Heaven, Putnam.
  • 1993: Turtle Moon, Berkley.
  • 1994: Second Nature, Putnam.
  • 1995: Practical Magic, Putnam.
  • 1997: Here on Earth, Putnam.
  • 2000: The River King, Putnam.
  • 2001: Aquamarine, Scholastic.
  • 2001: Blue Diary, Putnam.
  • 2002: Indigo, Scholastic Paperbacks.
  • 2003: Green Angel, Scholastic Paperbacks.
  • 2003: The Probable Future, Ballantine.
  • 2004: Blackbird House, Ballantine.
  • 2005: The Ice Queen, Little, Brown & Company.
  • 2005: The Foretelling, Little, Brown Young Readers.
  • 2006: Incantation, Little, Brown Young Readers.
  • 2007: Skylight Confessions, Back Bay Books.
  • 2008: The Third Angel, Three Rivers Press.
  • 2009: The Story Sisters, Three Rivers Press.
  • 2010: Green Witch, Scholastic Press.
  • 2011: The Red Garden, Broadway.
  • 2011: The Dovekeepers, Schribner.
Short Stories
  • 1999: Local Girls, Putnam.
Picture Books
  • 1997: Fireflies, illustrated by Wayne McLoughlin, Hyperion.
  • 1999: Fireflies: A Winter's Tale, illustrated by Wayne McLoughlin, Hyperion.
  • 2000: Horsefly, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, Hyperion.
  • 2004: Moondog, illustrated by Yumi Heo, Scholastic.
  • Also author of Independence Day, Warner Bros., 1983, and other screenplays. Contributor of stories to Ms, Redbook, Fiction, American Review, and Playgirl, and Cape Cod Stories, Chronicle Books, 1996. Practical Magic adapted to film in 1998; The River King adapted to film in 2004; Aquamarines adapted to film in 2006.



Review of At Risk, School Library Journal, May, 1993, p. 24.

Becker, Alida, review of Seventh Heaven, New York Times Book Review, August 5, 1990, p. 2.

Bush, Frederick, review of Turtle Moon, New York Times Book Review, April, 26, 1992, p. 1.

Charyn, Jerome, "The Witches' Tale" New York Times Book Review, July 15, 1979, p. 13.

Cravens, Gwyneth, "Flying from the Windows, Biking down the Stairs," New York Times Book Review, August 9, 1987, pp. 7, 9.

Dong, Stella, "Alice Hoffman," Publishers Weekly, April 12, 1985, pp. 102-03.

Dooley, Susan, "Mothers and Daughters," Washington Post Book World, May 11, 1985, p. 19.

Ferguson, Sarah, "Islanders," New York Times Book Review, June 13, 1999, p. 31

Fontinha, Rita M., review of Here on Earth, Kliatt, May, 1998, p. 13.

Freeman, Suzanne, "Love at the Crisis Center," Washington Post Book World, December 21, 1980, p. 4.

Gropman, Alice, review of Local Girls, School Library Journal, October, 1999, p. 178.

Review of Here on Earth, Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 1997, p. 824.

Hoffman, Alice, "The Hum Inside the Skull--A Symposium," New York Times Book Review, May 13, 1984, pp. 1, 5.

Johnson, Alexandra, review of Illumination Night, Boston Review, October, 1987, p. 31.

Kakutani, Michiko, "Magical Realism from 2 Cultures," New York Times, June 2, 1995, p. C30.

Karbo, Karen, "Heathcliff Redux," New York Times Book Review, September 14, 1997, p. 25.

Klass, Perri, "Childbirth, with Fire and Ice," New York Times Book Review, March 24, 1985, p. 7.

Lardner, Susan, "Complications," New Yorker, July 15, 1985, pp. 83-85.

Lee, Hermione, "Frantic Obsessions," Observer (London), May 29, 1983, p. 30.

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Spacks, Patricia Meyer, review of Fortune's Daughter, Boston Review, September, 1985, pp. 25-26.

Strouse, Jean, "Esther the White, Esther the Black," Newsweek, August 20, 1979, p. 72.

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"Books,", (January 11, 2012).

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For More Information See


Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 51, Gale, 1989.

Contemporary Popular Writers, edited by Susan Windisch Brown, St. James Press, 1996.


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Cosmopolitan, February, 1994.

Detroit News, September 5, 1990.

Globe and Mail (Toronto), August 25, 1990.

Library Journal, April, 15, 1994, p. 130; May 15, 1995, p. 95; January, 1996, p. 166; December, 1996, p. 150; July, 1997, p. 125; May 15, 1999, p. 130.

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Los Angeles Times, December 5, 1980; May 28, 1982; May 9, 1985; August 24, 1987; June 30, 1988.

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Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April, 1994; December, 1995, p. 46.

Ms., August, 1979; May, 1982; June, 1985.

Nation, November 26, 1990.

Newsweek, May 23, 1977; August 20, 1990.

New Yorker, May 3, 1982; July 27, 1992; April 11, 1994.

New York Times, July 25, 1987; July 4, 1988; August 10, 1990; February 24, 1994, p. C19.

New York Times Book Review, November 9, 1980; March 24, 1985; July 17, 1988; June 25, 1995, p. 25; July 16, 2000, p. 12.

People, September 3, 1990; September 5, 1994, p. 34; July 3, 1995, p. 31; September 22, 1997, p. 35.

Publishers Weekly, June 1, 1990; November 29, 1993; January 2, 1995, p. 30; March 20, 1995, p. 40; April 22, 1996, p. 67; June 16, 1997, p. 44; September 15, 1997, p. 76; May 3, 1999, p. 67.

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Time, July 18, 1988; August 6, 1990.

Times (London), November 28, 1985; October 1, 1987; October 1, 1988.

Times Literary Supplement, April 21, 1978; March 11, 1988; March 25, 1994, p. 21; October 19, 1997, p. 24.

Village Voice, July 19, 1988.

Vogue, July, 1992.*

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|K1603000705