A few weeks ago my friend and I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by author Alice Hoffman. (This is the same friend who recommended Girl Underwater this past spring). Our local library regularly hosts authors for lectures, but I had never attended one before. Though I hadn’t read any of Alice Hoffman’s books I thought it would be something different to do, and an interesting experience as well. And it was- I took a lot away from the hour that I spent there.
She talked about how books have had an impact on her life, both as a reader and a writer. She referenced books that were significant to her throughout her childhood and young adulthood. One of the most memorable things that Ms. Hoffman said was that she feels that books you read in your middle school and early teenage years stay with you throughout your life, and become a part of who you are. This is something that I completely agree with, though I’ve never thought about it before. Looking forward, I think this is a topic that I’ll elaborate more on in a later blog post.
Much of the lecture was about Hoffman’s development as a writer, and how she came to be a successful author. As someone who has wanted to be a writer since the time I could read and write, I enjoyed this part of the discussion. It inspired me to focus more on my writing (which is partly why I’ve been slacking on my reading list and blog updates).
Before opening up the discussion for questions, Alice read aloud an excerpt from her latest book, Faithful. From reading the book jacket of the signed copy I had purchased, I knew that the story was about a young woman who was struggling to move on with her life following an accident that involved her best friend. The section that Alice read aloud from was a scene in which the main character’s mother visited her on her birthday. It was also the first time she saw her daughter’s apartment in New York City. The main character, Shelby, was worried about the state of her apartment and what her mom would think of her life in the city. She had tried putting off the visit, but her mother insisted. I almost laughed aloud; I’ve lived out this scene a number of times in my own life. For that scene alone, I couldn’t wait to start reading the book.
The novel begins post-accident, at the height of Shelby’s depression. It spans about ten years, mostly centering on Shelby’s personal development. But it also examines her relationships with the important people in her life: her mother, her boyfriend, her friends. As someone who has felt a little bit lost at different points in life, I appreciated the way that Faithful presented Shelby’s mental health. She wasn’t perceived as whiney or ungrateful, which I’ve experienced in reading other books about young women going through a tough time. The novel never shied away from the fact that she was in a dark place, and it provided a pretty accurate depiction of someone trying to put their life back together without having any real idea of how or what to do. It was realistic in showing that not everything comes together all at once, and sometimes moving forward means you have to backtrack a little bit first.
I enjoyed reading about Shelby’s journey in Faithful. It was a welcome surprise coming from a lecture that I originally signed up for just because I wanted something different to do. And as an added bonus, it opened me up to another author whose books I plan on adding to my (ever-growing) reading list. I’m looking forward to reading more from Alice Hoffman someday soon.