When I read The Dovekeepers a few years ago for a book club, I knew then that Alice Hoffman would become a must-read author for me. Her richly detailed historical fiction and frequent incorporation of mysticism or magical realism make for engrossing and enjoyable reads – she certainly hasn’t failed me with her most recent three books!
The oldest of this trio, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Hoffman takes readers to New York City in 1911 and introduces two characters attempting break out of the stifled existences created by their parents, while getting tangled in the aftermath of the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.
The Marriage of Opposites is set in a Jewish community on the island of St. Thomas, then the Danish West Indies, in the early 1800’s. This tale follows two generations of a family as they rebel in order to find love. First, young widow Rachel Pomié Petit defies her church and community to marry her late husband’s nephew – a match deemed incestuous. Years later, their son, Camille Pissaro – considered the inventor of the Impressionist art movement – repeats history by defying his parents to marry the family maid.
In her most recent book, last year’s Faithful, Hoffman explores contemporary New York and how we find ourselves again after a tragedy throws everything into a tailspin. When Shelby survives a car accident that leaves her friend in a coma, she withdraws from life. It takes a series of mysterious postcards and a circle of other lost souls to slowly find herself again.
I think the element about these books that I love the most are the themes of perseverance and deciding your own fate. Regardless of setting or circumstance, we can all related to those.