From bestselling author Alice Hoffman comes Here on Earth, a spellbinding tale of love and obsession. After nearly twenty years of living in California, March Murray, along with her fifteen-year-old daughter, Gwen, returns to the small Massachusetts town where she grew up to attend the funeral of Judith Dale, the beloved housekeeper who raised her. Thrust into the world of her past, March slowly realizes the complexity of the choices made by those around her, including Mrs. Dale, who knew more of love than March could have ever suspected; Alan, the brother whose tragic history has left him grief-stricken, with alcohol his only solace; and Hollis, the boy she loved, the man she can't seem to stay away from. Erotic, disturbing, and compelling, Here on Earth is the dramatic and lyrical account of the joys of love, and the destruction love can release.
Alice Hoffman is one of my favourite authors of this century. I love how she takes you somewhere so dark, but always brings you back up for air, leaving you feeling like you have experienced something absolutely incredible. I love how she is able to romanticize even the darkest tale. That being said, this was a little too dark for my taste. It describes how destructive love can be - how it can absolutely consume you. A love like this painted in a better light would be how I would describe "true love" or your "soul mate" - how this one person draws you in and is the one match that understands your very core of being. She paints the flip side of this - you can't help who this person is. This person might be a despicable human being and you will love him or her just the same. What Hoffman has created is a modern Wuthering Heights. Normally I would like this.
Let's start with Hollis - our Heathcliff of the novel. Just like his predecessor, he is a dark, somewhat misunderstood villain. You can understand his violent urges - jealousy, his resentment of his treatment as a youth, his need to control - but it somehow doesn't redeem his actions. And beyond that, he is just so damn unlikeable! I don't think Hoffman ever intends for us to like him either - he's possessive, callous, greedy, vengeful, and not a single character in the book likes him except for Hank, who worships him, and March.
March Murray. Let's just start with her name. It bothers me. I couldn't really tell you why, perhaps it is the corny alliteration. Or to make my next point, perhaps it is because it is an exceptionally bland name. Which fits her exceptionally bland personality. She seems to have almost no personality or distinguishing features other than the streaks of grey in her hair. She is perfectly normal, and in my eyes, this is a fault. This is all personal taste of course, I can understand why Hoffman chose to do this. Just like Catherine (the elder) of Wuthering Heights, her story follows the same line - married to a man who she can not love back despite his exceeding kindness. In both tales her brother is a man who despises the Heathcliff character and makes "Heathcliff's" life miserable. After the brother falls from grace, "Heathcliff" takes his vengeance out on the brother's son.
This son in Hoffman's novel is Hank. Despite Hollis's blatant mistreatment of Hank, Hank considers what Hollis does for him generous. Hank is also Hollis's biggest foil - What Alan does to Hollis is the exact same situation Hollis puts Hank in. Unlike Hollis, Hank shows gratitude, ethics, and goodwill towards all. He does not maintain a state a resentment except, perhaps, to his father. Hank was too naive for my taste, but as a character he really grows, and I grew to like him as well.
Out of all the characters though, Gwen has the most growth. She starts out as a horribly bratty teen - I really disliked her character. But when her mother reverts to being the child, Gwen really pulls herself together and takes care of things. By the end of the book she was probably my favourite character. Both she and Hank have such a mature outlook on life and love which really contrasts with the insanity that makes up the love between their pseudo parents.
The prose was beautiful as always with Alice Hoffman's work. I thought it was very well-written, especially in her ability to use every character and every action for a specific reason. It just didn't work for me. The subject material and the way it was approached was a little darker than I liked. I probably would have liked it if I had really felt a connection with any of the main characters. Without that connection, it made it really hard for me to wade through. A good book - just not for me.
The chick lit reader who enjoys tackling serious books, Oprah book club lovers (I've found that there are many books that I feel I should like but just can't bring myself to do it are on this list. It's very strange), anyone who is a sucker for great flowing prose.
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