The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman
Finished: Jul. 15 2009
First Published: Jun. 02 '09
Genre: magical realism
Once a year there was a knock at the door.
Reason for Reading: I've become a big fan of magical realism over the last year or so and Alice Hoffman was an author on my list, so I figured why not start with her new book. I received a review copy from Random House Canada.
Comments: Well, I hardly know where to start with this book. What is this book about? It's the story of three sisters who live in a fantasy world of their own creation. Two of them hold a dark secret, but one of them holds the darkest secret of all. It's a story of a mother's loves as she tries to raise her daughters single handedly. The girls grow up, let go of their fantasy world (though parts will never leave them) and face the pain of real life. This is a story of the fantastical, a family saga, a harsh, dark realism and ultimate redemption.
I'll start by saying I really, really enjoyed this book. But I also have to say there were parts when I just didn't get it. Each chapter starts with a few paragraphs of an italicized story from the fantasy world, at least that's what I thought at the beginning, but by the end I had no idea what they were about or what their purpose served. The first half of the book when the girls are young and living in the fantasy world is beautiful. The language and atmosphere is so fairy tale-like. It's pure delight to read but even at this stage glimpses of the dark secret are seen and the power of even the smallest glimpse of this evil into such serene surroundings is shiver-inducing. As events unfold the author throws a stunning shock at the reader and the atmosphere becomes more realistic, heavier and darker.
The characters are marvelous. I just loved every single one of them, even the ones that I didn't particularly like as people. They were just so well written I could visualize and hear each one of them. Truly brilliant characterization! The writing as a whole is beautiful, the family saga is compelling and heart-wrenching while the fantasy elements are always present whether in full force or just as tiny flickers. It's still a book I have to give some thought to, though. This has given me a taste for Alice Hoffman and I plan on reading her again.
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