FAITHFUL by Alice Hoffman (Audiobook)

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage of Opposites and The Dovekeepers comes a soul-searching story about a young woman struggling to redefine herself and the power of love, family, and fate.

Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.

What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion — from dark suffering to true happiness — a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls — including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.

FAITHFUL is a sad yet hopeful coming of age story about a young woman dealing with grief and survivor’s guilt. After a tragic car accident, Shelby Richmond is able to walk away, but her best friend isn’t so lucky. Was there someone watching over her that night? Shelby is a troubled soul stuck in limbo when mysterious postcards start to arrive. The sender is anonymous and the messages are quite simple, but it’s just enough to nudge her forward, even a tiny bit.

I love Alice Hoffman’s prose, and the writing in this book is as beautiful as her others. Shelby’s character was difficult and not always easy to like, but deep down I knew she was good, partly due to her passion for rescuing misfit dogs! This is a story of healing, definitely pulled at my heartstrings. I had to grab the tissues a few times. FAITHFUL had a different “feel” to it than Hoffman’s other books I’ve read, though I still enjoyed it.

Audiobook • 8 hrs, 27 mins • Amber Tamblyn, Narrator

Amber Tamblyn narrated the audiobook, and this is the first time I’ve listened to a book read by her. I think she did fine with Shelby’s voice. Overall, nothing too emotional, which fit with Shelby’s apathetic disposition. If you prefer narrations with lots of inflection and drama, this wouldn’t be a good fit.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Audiobook Review: THE MUSEUM OF EXTRAORDINARY THINGS by Alice Hoffman

Format: Audio; 12 hrs, 18 mins
Narrators: Judith Light, Grace Gummer, Zach Appelman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date: February 18, 2014
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★

Mesmerizing and illuminating, Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things is the story of an electric and impassioned love between two vastly different souls in New York during the volatile first decades of the twentieth century.

Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s “museum,” alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man taking pictures of moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River.

The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as a tailor’s apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie.

With its colorful crowds of bootleggers, heiresses, thugs, and idealists, New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her trademark magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a sizzling, tender, and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is Alice Hoffman at her most spellbinding.

THE MUSEUM OF EXTRAORDINARY THINGS is an epic tale of love, loss, and the astounding city of New York in the early 20th century. The two main protagonists are Coralie, a girl with a curious deformity who becomes an attraction at her father’s museum of oddities, and Eddie, a photographer who’s abandoned his Jewish Orthodox faith and makes a living documenting the wonders and tragedies of the city. Eventually their paths cross when they become wrapped up in the mystery surrounding a missing garment worker.

Like all of Ms. Hoffman’s books I’ve read, the prose is gorgeous and mesmerizing, and her vivid descriptions make the time, place, and characters very real. The author includes her trademark magical realism and symbolism – fire, ice, water, birds, trees, the color red – which is always a delight to read. The actual historical events that were woven into the story were eye-opening to say the least. The pacing was a bit slow in spots and some scenes tended to go on too long for my taste. Still, I was intrigued by the mystery and was impatiently waiting to see how Eddie and Coralie would connect.

I listened to the audiobook which was performed by Judith Light (narrator), Grace Gummer (Coralie), and Zach Appelman (Eddie). All three performances were good, though their readings lacked a lot of emotion. I’m glad that the first person POVs of Coralie and Eddie where read by different narrators. It worked well for this story.

Rating: 4 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Audiobook Review: THE ICE QUEEN by Alice Hoffman

Format: Audio; 5 CDs; 6 hrs
Narrator: Nancy Travis
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Released: April 1, 2005
Source: Borrowed from the Library

From the best-selling author of Practical Magic, a miraculous, enthralling tale of a woman who is struck by lightning, and finds her frozen heart is suddenly burning.

Be careful what you wish for. A small town librarian lives a quiet life without much excitement. One day, she mutters an idle wish and, while standing in her house, is struck by lightning. But instead of ending her life, this cataclysmic event sparks it into a new beginning. She goes in search of Lazarus Jones, a fellow survivor who was struck dead, then simply got up and walked away. Perhaps this stranger who has seen death face to face can teach her to live without fear.

When she finds him, he is her opposite, a burning man whose breath can boil water and whose touch scorches. As an obsessive love affair begins between them, both are forced to hide their most dangerous secrets: what turned one to ice and the other to fire. A magical story of passion, loss, and renewal, The Ice Queen is Alice Hoffman at her electrifying best.


I listened to the audio format of THE ICE QUEEN, and once again Nancy Travis gave an amazing performance and captured the magic, passion, and sorrow of Alice Hoffman’s novel. THE ICE QUEEN is a dark fairy tale about a lonely librarian who learns the hard way to be careful what she wishes. Wishes do come true, but not always with the desired outcome. From the beginning, the story had a dreamlike quality that held me captive. Hoffman always delivers gorgeous imagery and stunning prose, and I think she outdid herself with this novel.

This is the fourth book I’ve read by Alice Hoffman, and it’s also the saddest. It started sad and got sadder, but such was the tale of a morose, lightning-struck librarian and her obsession, a man named Lazarus who cheated death. Had I not been listening to this while in the car with other people, I would have been a sobbing mess the last 30 minutes for sure. Even so, the ending left me hopeful, and I’m so glad I gave THE ICE QUEEN a listen. Thank you to RJ @ Art @ Home for the recommendation!

Rating: 4 Stars

Audiobook Review: THE RED GARDEN by Alice Hoffman



Format: Audio; 6 CDs (7 hrs. 19 min.)
Narrator: Nancy Travis
Publisher: Crown
Released: January 25, 2011
Source: Borrowed from the library

The Red Garden introduces us to the luminous and haunting world of Blackwell, Massachusetts, capturing the unexpected turns in its history and in our own lives.

In exquisite prose, Hoffman offers a transforming glimpse of small-town America, presenting us with some three hundred years of passion, dark secrets, loyalty, and redemption in a web of tales where characters’ lives are intertwined by fate and by their own actions.

From the town’s founder, a brave young woman from England who has no fear of blizzards or bears, to the young man who runs away to New York City with only his dog for company, the characters in The Red Garden are extraordinary and vivid: a young wounded Civil War soldier who is saved by a passionate neighbor, a woman who meets a fiercely human historical character, a poet who falls in love with a blind man, a mysterious traveler who comes to town in the year when summer never arrives.

At the center of everyone’s life is a mysterious garden where only red plants can grow, and where the truth can be found by those who dare to look.


This is another wonderful book to add to my list of favorites this year. THE RED GARDEN was different than my usual reads, because it’s actually the story of a town called Blackwell, told in a collection of interconnected short stories about the people who’ve lived there.

The first story begins in the mid-1700s, when a small group of lost travelers settles in the valley below Hightop Mountain in Massachusetts, and the final one concludes in present day. The stories are presented chronologically, all featuring descendants of the original three families who survived the first winter. The tales flowed together smoothly, and often times we would meet characters again in their later years.

Themes present throughout the book are love, loss, nature, and magic. I would almost consider this a collection of American folktales, because plenty of unexplained phenomena happen – a garden that only grows red plants, a ghost that haunts the river, a bear charmer, and more. And there’s always a lesson to take away from the tale.

THE RED GARDEN is a beautiful yet haunting book that will stay with me for a long time. The descriptions of the places and people were so vivid, I felt like I was a resident of Blackwell too. Not all the stories were happy ones, and a couple of them left me a blubbering mess, but I enjoyed the experience of listening to this book.

The audiobook was superbly narrated by Nancy Travis. I loved her!

Rating: 4¼ Stars

Book Review: BLACKBIRD HOUSE by Alice Hoffman



Publisher: Ballantine Books
Released: March 29, 2005
Source: Borrowed from the library

With “incantatory prose” that “sweeps over the reader like a dream,” (Philadelphia Inquirer), Hoffman follows her celebrated bestseller The Probable Future, with an evocative work that traces the lives of the various occupants of an old Massachusetts house over a span of two hundred years.

In a rare and gorgeous departure, beloved novelist Alice Hoffman weaves a web of tales, all set in Blackbird House. This small farm on the outer reaches of Cape Cod is a place that is as bewitching and alive as the characters we meet: Violet, a brilliant girl who is in love with books and with a man destined to betray her; Lysander Wynn, attacked by a halibut as big as a horse, certain that his life is ruined until a boarder wearing red boots arrives to change everything; Maya Cooper, who does not understand the true meaning of the love between her mother and father until it is nearly too late. From the time of the British occupation of Massachusetts to our own modern world, family after family’s lives are inexorably changed, not only by the people they love but by the lives they lead inside Blackbird House.

These interconnected narratives are as intelligent as they are haunting, as luminous as they are unusual. Inside Blackbird House more than a dozen men and women learn how love transforms us and how it is the one lasting element in our lives. The past both dissipates and remains contained inside the rooms of Blackbird House, where there are terrible secrets, inspired beauty, and, above all else, a spirit of coming home.

From the writer Time has said tells “truths powerful enough to break a reader’s heart” comes a glorious travelogue through time and fate, through loss and love and survival. Welcome to Blackbird House.


BLACKBIRD HOUSE is another memorable book from Alice Hoffman, one that would appeal to a lover of American historical fiction and magical realism, like me. The book is a collection of 12 interconnected short stories set on the same remote farm on Cape Cod. The imaginative stories span 200 years, beginning at the British blockade of the cape during the War of 1812 through present day, and their common denominator is Blackbird House.

The first story, “The Edge of the World,” sets the mysterious atmosphere of the book, when an eerie bird takes up residence at the farm. The bird makes an appearance throughout the next two centuries, as the house’s occupants experience love, loneliness, and loss, heartbreak and hope.

I enjoyed all of the stories, but there were a few that really stood out: “The Conjurer’s Handbook,” about a WWII soldier who falls in love with a Jewish guide at a prison camp; “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair,” about love at first sight and sibling rivalry; and “Insulting the Angels,” about a man willing to change the world for a complete stranger.

I love Alice Hoffman’s lyrical writing style, and her tragic and triumphant characters. I just need to read a few lines of the first page, and I’m hooked. I would also recommend Ms. Hoffman’s THE RED GARDEN, which is another collection of short stories, only they’re connected by a town instead of one house. Fantastic reading!

Rating: 4 Stars