Monday, May 4, 2015

HERE ON EARTH by Alice Hoffman

March Murray, along with her teenaged daughter Gwen, has returned to her Massachusetts hometown of Jenkintown for a funeral, after an absence of almost 20 years.  She knows that she will also see Hollis, the love of her life.  When Hollis disappeared years ago to seek his fortune, March gave up waiting for him and married Richard Cooper, who loves her dearly.  Hollis made his fortune and then some, as he now owns just about everything in town.  While March and Hollis rekindle the flame of their passion, Gwen falls for Hollis’s ward Hank, who happens to be March’s nephew, making Gwen and Hank first cousins.  Gwen also develops a strong affinity for Tarot, Hollis’s washed-up racehorse who has a reputation for violent misbehavior.  When Gwen decides that she’d like to remain in Jenkintown, the way is clear for the two of them to move in with Hollis.  However, Hollis’s attachment to March does not extend to Gwen, another man’s daughter.  Meanwhile, Richard knows about his wife’s infidelity and wants her back anyway.  I would not call this a novel about love or even lust.  It’s about an obsession that gets way out of hand.  I know domestic situations like this exist, where a woman sacrifices everything, including her self-respect, to be with a man who doesn’t deserve her.  Still, March had a seemingly contented existence with Richard, but the unfinished business with Hollis probably tugged at her soul every day.  I found the fringe characters to be more interesting than March:  Susie Justice, who steers clear of all marriage opportunities; March’s cruel brother Alan whose grief won’t allow him to become sober; and Susie’s father (a judge named Justice?  Really?), who carried on an affair for decades under everyone’s noses.  The two big questions of the novel are whether March will come out of her trance and whether Alan will find redemption.  Gwen, though, is the one who really has an opportunity to learn what she’s made of.

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