Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The Rules of Magic, Practical Magic, The Marriage of Opposites, The Red Garden, the Oprah's Book Club selection Here on Earth, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, and The Dovekeepers. She lives near Boston.
With this moving novel, Hoffman has written a story about a family attacked by tragedy, and has given it a larger relevance by confronting one of the most frightening issues of our times. The Farrells are a middle-class family living in a small New England town. Ivan Farrell is an astronomer, wife Polly a photographer, eight-year-old Charlie a budding biologist and 11-year-old Amanda a talented gymnast. Hoffman has few rivals in depicting domestic scenes: the bickering between siblings, the tension between spouses, and withal, the humor and love that holds families together. Suddenly the Farrells are singled out for grief. Amanda, who has been winning gymnastic meets despite a summer-long malaise, tests positive for AIDS, contracted some five years before when she was transfused with contaminated blood after an appendectomy. In unsensationalized detail, Hoffman depicts the effects of her illness. Too stunned, angry and anguished even to turn to each other, Polly and Ivan retreat into separate worlds. Charlie is abandoned by his best friend and shunned by his schoolmates. Amanda, an average adolescent who loves Madonna records, must come to grips with the process of dying. The hysterical reaction of some members of the community is a further blow. Hoffman's sensitive handling of this material is both matter of fact and heartbreaking. Ivan's friendship with a man he meets through the AIDS hotline, Polly's search for comfort with Amanda's pediatrician, Charlie's stoic bewilderment, Amanda's bond with a young woman who is a medium (the only evidence in this novel of Hoffman's characteristic feeling for the supernatural) are all beautifully portrayed. This will be a book that people will talk about and recommend. 100,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo; first serial to Redbook; movie rights to 20th Century-Fox; BOMC main selection. (July)
Probably destined to become the first best-selling novel about AIDS, Hoffman's newest work is heart-wrenching. Star gymnast on her school team, 11-year-old Amanda yearns toward adolescence. When her illness is diagnosed (she'd had a blood transfusion for an appendectomy), her familyphotographer mother Polly, astronomer father Ivan, and 8-year-old brother Charlieexperience the expected disbelief, anger, and sorrow. However, because Amanda has AIDS they also experience rejection by old friends and trouble at school. As Amanda's life dwindles away, the family struggles, begins to dissolve, but finally reconnects. First-rate ``contemporary issue'' fiction that will leave few dry eyes. Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.
Praise for At Risk
"Graceful...emotionally potent...A cathartic tale that begs us, with heartbreaking eloquence, to stop looking the other way."--Glamour "Within pages, the reader falls in love with this very real little girl... Moving, dramatic and painfully human."--Miami Herald "I have rarely encountered a work that has moved me as strongly... extraordinary."--Mademoiselle "Deeply impressive...powerful."--Newsweek "Deeply moving...Sensitivity and empathy...radiate from this beautiful novel."--Chicago Sun-Times "Compassionate...This is a serious, honest novel."--Village Voice "Tender, strikingly simple and deeply memorable."--Kirkus Reviews "An affecting novel of exquisite delicacy, with humor, warmth, and sensitivity. Miss Hoffman heals wounds with the gentle touch of an angel."--Joseph Heller