Thursday, January 17, 2013

Resurrection, love, loss, and redemption in a flash


One of my favorite authors that I have the most difficulty describing to other people is Alice Hoffman. I have been reading her books since I was a teenager, but when you throw words like mystical, paranormal, and psychological around people get nervous. Her writing is complex and covers a diverse range of topics, so those words are very shallow in comparison to what her work actually is --even though they are sometimes the best descriptors. She is able to create well researched literary fiction, such as The Dovekeepers, movie quality young adult novels like Aquamarine, and she can tell stories that make you ache for the characters, such as Skylight Confessions. Hoffman's heroines are strong protagonists that usually encompass some type of other worldly strength or quality, but are also completely normal and prone to costly mistakes. She can easily blur the line between mystical and commonplace to the point that you don’t even question the possibility of the story.
My favorite work of Hoffman’s, which is saying something, is The Ice Queen. I have met Hoffman fans that do not rank this among their top five, but something about the story continues to resonate with me.
The story focuses on the life of an emotionally cold librarian that leads a mundane life in a small town. She makes an idle wish to be struck by lightning, and the wish comes true. The lightning strike is a new beginning for her and she begins a quest to find Lazarus Jones, a fellow lightning strike survivor. Lazarus was struck dead when the lightning hit him, but was resurrected and left with a dark secret. The unnamed narrator hopes to get answers from Lazarus to help her overcome her fears and the past that hangs over her, but she finds a man as stunted as she is. The two begin a love affair, but continue to hide their secrets from one another. In the end, you are left pondering the power of guilt and the influence it has over our lives.
The ending carries a twist that would be hard for anyone to see coming. If you haven’t read anything by Alice Hoffman, you should.

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