A welcome return to top form by a gifted, popular author.


A small-town hero with a criminal past raises unsettling questions about guilt and trust, in this unsparing new novel by Hoffman (The River King, 2000, etc.).

Everyone in Monroe, Massachusetts, adores Ethan Ford. He’s the town’s most reliable contractor, a supportive Little League coach, and a life-saving member of the volunteer fire department. He and his wife of 13 years, Jorie, are still so in love that they’ve tumbled back into bed on the June morning when the local sheriff rings the bell to arrest him on a 15-year-old murder charge. Ethan freely admits it. “The way he sees it the truth is a simple thing: He is not the same man any more.” The self-obsessed, violent drifter who raped and killed Rachel Morris became another person after that night, asserts Ethan, and enough people in Monroe agree to form an ardent defense committee, including sexy Rosarie Williams, casual breaker of teenage boys’ hearts, who thinks Ethan is her dream lover. But Rosarie’s 12-year-old sister, Kat, who recognized Ethan’s photo on TV and turned him in, is not the only person who thinks guilt can’t be shed so easily. His son, Collie, doesn’t even want to see him, and Jorie reels from the knowledge that her life has been founded on a lie. When she goes to Maryland to confront what Ethan did, the victim’s bitter younger brother reminds her, “My sister never had the chance to be a different woman” and gives her Rachel’s blue diary to drive home his point. Ethan’s claims of repentance and redemption come to seem much too glib as Hoffman skillfully spins a disciplined narrative (the whimsy and the descriptions of nature for once held in check) focused on the struggles of Monroe’s stunned residents to make sense of this abrupt fissure in their accepted reality. Hopeful developments for the strong supporting characters prevent the story from seeming entirely grim, but the final decisions made by Jorie and others suggest that forgiveness should not be lightly given—or requested.

A welcome return to top form by a gifted, popular author.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14802-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2001

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...


Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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