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For more than a century, the small town of Haddan, Massachusetts, has been divided, as if by a line drawn down the center of Main Street, separating those born and bred in the village from those who attend the prestigious Haddan School. But one October night the two worlds are thrust together due to an inexplicable death, and the town's divided history is revealed in all its complexity. The lives of everyone involved are unraveled: from Carlin Leander, the fifteen-year-old girl who is as loyal as she is proud, to Betsy Chase, a woman running from her own destiny; from August Pierce, a boy who unexpectedly finds courage in his darkest hour, to Abel Grey, the police officer who refuses to let unspeakable actions - both past and present - slide by without notice. Entertainment Weekly has declared that Alice Hoffman's worlds are "replete with miracles" and The Boston Globe has praised her "iridescent prose, taut narrative suspense, and alluring atmosphere." Now she brings us a novel as compelling as it is daring, an exploration of forgiveness and hope, a wondrous tale of innocence and evil, and of the secrets we keep.
Hoffman is the daughter of a real estate salesman and a social worker. When they divorced, she was raised by her mother on Long Island. A voracious reader, Hoffman has had a lifelong interest in magic and fairy tales, and her reading has had an obvious effect on her own writing, which tends to incorporate fantasy and myth. She has a B.A. from Adelphi College and an M.F.A. from Stanford.
"Hoffman glides with ease through potentially hokey matters--she has a lovely gift for writing about ghosts and karmic retribution as if they were the most natural things in the world. But her work doesn't hang upon spectral photographs or floral-scented phantoms. What Hoffman does masterfully is crawl inside the heads of regular people as they fall in love, grieve and sink into the bitterest loneliness, as they find a place in the world, as they die."
"Far too few novelists are drawn to write about the impacts of class and wealth onpoor kids, but with this, her 14th novel, Hoffman effortlessly draws us into a disturbing coming-of-age story."
"It can be hard to find an example of good old-fashioned storytelling these days, but storytelling, refreshingly, is Alice Hoffman's strength....But...[b]y the end, one thing is clear: it might take a well-populated village to raise a plot, but it takes three or four strong characters to keep that plot in motion....Spinning a solid tale is indeed a form of very practical magic. But it's another, impractical sort of magic that allows a writer to gain insight into human acts and motivations...."
From the Publisher
At an exclusive private school in Massachusetts, a sudden death brings town and gown together. A New York Times Notable Book for the year 2000.
The Haddan School was built in 1858 on the sloping banks of the Haddan River, a muddy and precarious location that had proven disastrous from the start. That very first year, when the whole town smelled of cedar shavings, there was a storm of enormous proportions, with winds so strong that dozens of fish were drawn up from the reedy shallows, then lifted above the village in a shining cloud of scales.