Review

Blue Diary

by Alice Hoffman

It
is often comforting when your favorite author comes out with a new
book every year or so --- it gives you something to look forward to
reading-wise, something you can count on if nothing else you are
reading moves you very well. That's why it's almost a national
holiday when Alice Hoffman puts out a new book --- well, at least
in my house. BLUE DIARY finds our only American magic realist
tramping rosebushes in order to get a closer look at the
destruction of a marriage.

Secrets are the real key to BLUE DIARY, Hoffman's latest plunge
into the darker mysteries of seemingly blissful love in a small New
England town. Like the transcendentalists before her, Hoffman sees
the connections between all things --- animals, plants, and
especially people. The town of Monroe is small, and the people are
gossipy. Ethan Ford's secret, which is the thing that splits the
novel apart, is that he has reinvented himself, from a crime-doer
to a good-doer, and yet that means nothing in the wake of the crime
he committed when he was "someone else." Jorie, his previously
envied wife, the stuck-up girl with the perfect blond hair and
beautiful face, becomes the subject of derision and a personal
breakdown that forever changes her life and that of her melancholy
young son, aptly named Collie. These characters are joined by a
woman overcoming cancer and finding true love with a long-suffering
schoolmate, the brother of a dead girl who has never forgotten that
pain, and a young girl who understands all too clearly the
consequences of first love.

   

I have to say that the turns this novel takes truly surprised me
--- I expected a better reception for Ethan, greater forgiveness
from certain members of his inner circle; and it is surprising to
read about a place where forgiveness does not come easily. It is
just one of the stark and honest things that happen in fictional
Monroe, which, like all Hoffman small towns, is a place that exists
in a timeless world, unfettered by the properties of present-day
popular culture. It is a cautionary fable, a fairy tale with a
true-life Grimm ending, although it has shoots of possible
redemption at the end. BLUE DIARY is the most emotionally
complicated novel Alice Hoffman has ever produced, and that is
saying something. Once you're inside her ageless world, you may
find yourself questioning things in your own most timely one.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 21, 2011

Blue Diary
by Alice Hoffman

  • Publication Date: August 6, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade
  • ISBN-10: 0425184943
  • ISBN-13: 9780425184943