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Second Nature: A Thriller


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About the Author

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.


Hoffman has always written sympathetically about misfits and loners, from her first book, Property Of ( LJ 5/15/77) to Turtle Moon ( LJ 2/15/92), and her new novel is no exception. Robin Moore rescues a wild, nonspeaking young man--called the Wolf Man because he was found, injured, in a wolf trap--from impending transfer to a mental hospital. In the process of teaching Stephen how to live in ``civilized'' suburban society, she falls in love with him. Meanwhile, neightborhood animals are found with their throats slit, and a teenage girl is murdered; the Wolf Man is naturally a suspect. Hoffman writes with surehanded grace and detail about Stephen's many years living with a pack of wolves, and she's equally adept at sensitively examining marriage, first love, and adultery. Difficult questions about nature vs. nurture, what it means to be civilized, the justification for murder, and the mysteries of real love are explored in evocative prose. This beautifully written, suspenseful, and thought-provoking novel is highly recommended for all libraries. Literary Guild Main Selection.-- Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle

Beguiled by her seductive prose and her imaginative virtuosity, readers have always been willing to suspend disbelief and enjoy the touches of magic in Hoffman's novels ( Illumination Night ; Turtle Moon , etc). Here, credibility is stretched not by magical intervention but by the implausibility of a major character. When a feral young man is discovered living with wolves in a remote area of upper Michigan, he cannot speak and can barely remember his early life. Transferred to a hospital in Manhattan, he does not utter a sound and is on his way to being incarcerated in a mental institution until divorced landscape designer Robin Moore impulsively hustles him into her pickup truck and carries him to the sanctuary of her home on an island in Nassau County. There the Wolf Man reveals that his name is Stephen and that he was the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed his parents when he was three-and-a-half years old; thereafter he lived with a wolf pack. Within three months Robin teaches Stephen to read; soon afterwards they begin a passionate affair. How Stephen can so easily expand the small vocabulary he had mastered at a tender age but has never used since, how suddenly he can deal with sophisticated concepts, speak in grammatical sentences and even observe the social graces, is the central flaw that undermines what is otherwise a highly engaging tale. Stephen's presence in the community causes various people to reassess their lives; then there is a tragedy involving a child, (a device that is beginning to be a pattern in Hoffman's novels, as are strange changes in climate that herald a significant event). Hoffman's keen appraisal of human nature and her graceful prose do much to keep this novel appealing; but the bedrock implausibility may deter readers from whole-hearted enjoyment. (Feb.)

Praise for Second Nature

"Hoffman tells a great story. Expect to finish this one in a single, guilty sitting."-

"Intelligent and absorbing...a celebration of the simple, unstinting grace of human love."-Chicago Sun-Times

"Generous, magical...Second Nature may be best read at full speed, hurtling down the mountain, as if falling in love."-San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle

"A rich and satisfying concoction...[A] modern fairy tale, full of insights into the battle between instinct and upbringing, desire and conformity."-Booklist

"Iridescent prose, taut narrative suspense, alluring atmosphere, vivid characters."-Boston Sunday Globe

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