The year is 1908. After losing her beloved father, thirteen year-old Adeline elects to never speak again. Her widowed mother, now having to find a way to support herself and her daughter, takes a menial job at a remote island lighthouse. Adeline’s mother is cold and narcissistic.
“She was the sort of person who saw only herself and her shadow, and the rest of us disappeared in the bright sunlight.”
Their are three families living on the island and they share one house. Despite the isolation of her surroundings, and the close proximity of the lighthouse keeper’s families, Adeline finds real joy on the island and now understands her late father’s love of the sea. One of the lighthouse keeper’s wives, Julia, is kind to her. She is unaccustomed to kindness.
Her mother on the other hand, finds the remoteness and her menial work appalling. She seeks a diversion…
Having never read anything by Alice Hoffman, I was uncertain what to expect. I purchased this short story as a way to sample her writing without committing to a full length novel. WOW! Now I know why she is a best-selling author!
The story told SO much in SO few words… much like the protagonist of the story, young Adeline. Atmosphere fairly reeked from the pages so that you could feel the beach rocks in your hands, hear the gulls, and smell the salty sea brine.
Adeline’s mother in this story was only twenty-nine years old, but even her youth couldn’t excuse her actions, nor her conduct toward Adeline.
This was a short story which displays empathy and cunning while simultaneously engaging the reader. Now I cannot wait to read one of Hoffman’s novels.
If YOU have read an Alice Hoffman novel that you can particularly recommend, please let me know in the comments.
Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The World That We Knew, The Rules of Magic, The Marriage of Opposites, Practical Magic, The Red Garden, the Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on Earth, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, and The Dovekeepers. Her most recent novels are The World That We Knew and Magic Lessons. Born in New York City, she currently lives near Boston, Massachusetts.