Doubleday, 2004 (2004)
Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth
lice Hoffman, author of sixteen acclaimed and best-selling novels as well as five books for children, has taken a departure from her usual work.
is an account, told in vignettes, of the two-hundred year-old history of a ramshackle farmhouse on the outer reaches of Cape Cod. The farmhouse itself is the protagonist in this finely woven tale and the people who reside there over the years are only passing players. The author's beautifully written descriptions of the house and the sweet-pea and blueberry laden fields bring tears to the eyes of anyone who appreciates the beauty in nature.
he house was built by John Hadley, a farmer who wanted nothing more than to work his land and care for his family. He went to sea one last time, with his two sons, to earn enough money to see them through the winter months. They never returned. One son's pet blackbird soars through the pages, tying the intervening years together. The delicacy of Hoffman's prose is not blunted by the tragedies that enfold the occupants of this dilapidated house. Rather it enhances the emotions of her readers to pull us more tightly into the unfolding legacy of the house and its owners.
hough the novel covers two hundred years, it is a love story - an account of people who face often insumountable odds to pull their lives together through love. There's Violet (with a birthmark on her cheek) who looked for nothing in life but found love. Lysander Winn was attacked by a giant halibut and from then on pulled the big fish's teeth from his body. The story winds its way through the diverse inhabitants of the old house, ending in the modern day. Though run-down, this house gave something to each who lived there. What they did with their lives is the meat of the story, while the house looks on as a benign participant.
pparently, the author found this very house on Cape Cod and she and her hsuband restored it. But more importantly, it gave Hoffman the impetus for writing
. We are all the richer for that.
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