[(review date 15 May 1988) In the following review, Neuberger relates how Hoffman enjoys living in a small, agrarian community in Virginia, and discusses the inspiration Hoffman draws from the landscape and the people around him.]
Like almost everyone else in this small Southside town. Bill Hoffman can be seen each morning ambling to the post office, greeting others along the way.
In the afternoons, Hoffman will do chores around the small farm he and his wife share with their horses, dogs and cats.
But a typical resident of Southside, Hoffman is not.
He's the author of nine novels and dozens of short stories, some collected in the recently published By Land, by Sea.
With the countryside just outside his office window, Hoffman has penned a pile of tales focusing on life in rural Virginia communities. The places often bear a striking resemblance to towns like Farmville and Charlotte Court House.
"I've lived here so long, it's part of me now," says Hoffman, a native of West Virginia who adopted Southside Virginia as his home about 35 years ago.
White-haired and easygoing at 62, Hoffman is settled into the unhurried life around this town of fewer than 600 people. He and his wife, Sue, reared two daughters, and once raised cattle, vegetables, even grapes for their own wine.
Tending to their four-footed charges and looking after the 50-acre farm and its pre-Civil War farmhouse, the Hoffmans stay busy. Occasionally, they find time to ride horses through the woods and fields that hug the town.
"Living here is something I chose to do," Hoffman said in an interview in his wood-paneled office. "I've lived in Washington, D.C., and New York City, but it really didn't seem to me a very civilized life. I began to yearn for some space and a different kind of life, and I think I pretty much found it over here."
What he found was more than just the space and pace he longed for. "I like the kindness of the people and the patience that people in an agricultural community have."
Hoffman, a Presbyterian who attends one of the community's seven churches, also likes the importance of church and religious faith in the lives of people in this rural area. "These people here are seriously searching for spiritual answers. Here,...