Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman

This is a buddy review/read with Heather from A High and Hidden Place. You can see her thoughts here. I am enjoying our buddy reads. I hope we do more!

Alice Hoffman’s previous novel, The Third Angel, was hailed as "an unforgettable portrait of the depth of true love" (USA Today), "stunning" (Jodi Picoult), and "spellbinding" (Miami Herald). Her new novel, The Story Sisters, charts the lives of three sisters–Elv, Claire, and Meg. Each has a fate she must meet alone: one on a country road, one in the streets of Paris, and one in the corridors of her own imagination. Inhabiting their world are a charismatic man who cannot tell the truth, a neighbor who is not who he appears to be, a clumsy boy in Paris who falls in love and stays there, a detective who finds his heart’s desire, and a demon who will not let go.

What does a mother do when one of her children goes astray? How does she save one daughter without sacrificing the others? How deep can love go, and how far can it take you? These are the questions this luminous novel asks.

At once a coming-of-age tale, a family saga, and a love story of erotic longing, The Story Sisters sifts through the miraculous and the mundane as the girls become women and their choices haunt them, change them and, finally, redeem them. It confirms Alice Hoffman’s reputation as "a writer whose keen ear for the measure struck by the beat of the human heart is unparalleled" (The Chicago Tribune).
What did you think of the characters? Who was your favorite and who was your least favorite?
When the book started, Meg (the middle Story sister) was labeled as the 'book worm'. I thought for sure that she was going to be my favourite character, but then she was not in the book as much as I hoped. She had a few central scenes, but generally it was her two sisters that told the story. I thought that was a shame. It worked for the story, though. I think that Claire was probably my favourite character. You really got to know her through the course of the book and I really felt for her. When the book starts the girls are labeled as 'perfect', but it doesn't last for long and Claire gets wrapped up in everything that is going on. She is the youngest sister and really looks up to Elv. Those around them do not necessarily understand the connection between the two sisters. The reader is let in on the secret. I think my least favourite character was Elv. It wasn't because she was written badly. It was more than she was a hard character to like. I thought her acting out made sense for what she had been through, but that's just my opinion. I enjoyed her use of the 'other realm' and loved that she even had a language. Frankly, though, I am just not a big fan of 'coming of age' stories. They are really overdone and this book was essentially one, so it didn't always work well for me. It impacted what I thought of the characters, too.

Do you feel that the use of magical realism enhanced the story? In what way?
Okay, I have to be honest... It's the magic realism that I loved about this book. It's the magic realism that I love about all of Hoffman's novels. If there was no magic realism, this would be a coming of age novel and I would not be interested at all. I had an active imagination when I was younger (still do, really) and I loved how these three sisters had a magical world for themselves. The mention of fairies, evil spirits, and the fairy realm made the book for me. It's not like it has never been done before, but for some reason I just loved it. In the second half of the book when the girls got older and the magic realism played less of a role, though, I found myself losing a bit of my attention span. I think it was all about relatiblility. I had a rocky childhood, so I am well aware of how appealing it is to lose yourself in imaginary worlds that are so much better compared to the one you are living in. The circumstances my have been different, but I found that I could relate to the three sisters in different ways. I do read essentially fantasy novels afterall.

If you could change anything about the story, what would it be?
While I can understand why it was done, I found myself not wanting to lose the magic. There were two parts to the book, like I mentioned above, and the second part was less magically than the first. This meant that I enjoyed the first half way more than the second in many ways. I understand that the girls had to grow up, but it still made me sad that they had to lose their fantasy world in order to do so. There were still magically elements, especially when Claire is in Paris, but it just wasn't the same for me. It almost felt like instead of two parts it was two entirely different books. I didn't like the feel of that. Also, how much bad things can happen to one family? I mean, seriously, it is just one thing after another! Do not read this book if you are depressed because this will leave you even more so!

Overall, I liked this book. I just wasn't in a reviewing frame of mind... I hope that the review is okay. It took me forever to write it!

My thanks to Random House Canada for this book! I am having technological issues. It won't let me add a book cover... I will add it in later...


  1. Oooh, this sounds cool. Can you believe that I still haven't read any Hoffman? I have the Ice Queen here...I should read that one soon!

  2. I love what I have read of Hoffman so far. Like you say, it's the magical realism that really makes her stories. I will try and get my hands on a copy of this. Thanks for the review.

  3. Yeah, it's the fantasy elements that I love about her books (the term "magic realism" and I had a fight :P) I also like her writing a lot. I'll definitely be picking this up at some point.

  4. K, your review is good. I read and enjoyed Blackbird House but that's it. I haven't read anything else by her though I do have The Ice Queen on my list.

  5. Chris: I have read several Hoffman. I must read more. And, yes, you should read The Ice Queen soon!

    Rhinoa: It is the magical realism. I don't think I would like her otherwise.

    Ana: I know what you mean, I say magic realism, but I label it fantasy.

    Vasilly: I have to read Blackbird House soon, that's for sure.

  6. I don't remember reading anything by Hoffman yet...

  7. Practical Magic was and still is one of my favorite books but I never did get around to picking up anything else by this author. I really, really need to do that and I think I may try this one...


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