On the night her father dies, Arlyn is certain that the man she is meant to be with will walk into her life. But fate seems to be playing a trick when John Moody knocks on her door to ask for directions. Cool, practical, and deliberate, John is dreamy Arlyn's polar opposite. Yet the two are drawn powerfully together even when it is clear they are bound to bring each other grief. Their marriage is dangerous territory, tracing a map no one should follow. It leads them and their children to a house made of glass in the Connecticut countryside, to the rooftops and avenues of Manhattan, and to the blue waters of Long Island Sound, all in a search for family and identity.
Walking this path of ruin and redemption are Sam, their son, a brilliant, explosive artist who is drawn to self-destruction and dreams; Blanca, the beautiful loner who tries desperately to protect her brother from his destiny and lives her own life in a world of books; and Will, the grandson, who is left a legacy of broken pieces he needs to put together, an emotional and mysterious puzzle made up of people who don't know the first thing about love.
Here is a family so real, so tragic, so devoted, it is as if they have written their own riveting history-a quest for love and truth. Glass breaks, love hurts, and families make their own rules. No one who reads this book will ever forget it or look at their own family in quite the same way. Skylight Confessions is a luminous and elegant work of true originality.
In Hoffman's 19th novel, a young woman becomes the victim of the destiny she's created, leaving behind a splintered family. On the day of her father's funeral, 17-year-old Arlyn Singer decides the first man who walks down the street will be her one love. That night, Yale senior John Moody stops to ask directions, and Arlyn and John take the first passionate steps toward what will become a marriage of heartache and mutual betrayal. After John's architect father dies, the couple moves into his Connecticut home, a glass house called the Glass Slipper, and Arlyn has an affair with a local laborer. She dies while her second child is still young, and the story forks to follow the divergent paths taken by the Moody children. Sam, the self-destructive first-born, spray paints his angst all over lower Manhattan and has a son before disappearing. Blanca, Sam's sister and the only family member he loves, moves to London and opens a bookstore. John remarries, to Cynthia, and has another daughter, but carries a family secret with him to his grave. Ghostly apparitions lend an air of dark enchantment, though the numerous dream sequences feel heavy-handed. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Little, Brown and Company
January 10, 2007
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Excerpt from Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman
SHE WAS HIS FIRST WIFE, BUT AT THE MOMENT when he first saw her she was a seventeen-year-old girl named Arlyn Singer who stood out on the front porch on an evening that seemed suspended in time. Arlyn's father had just died and the funeral dinner had ended only hours earlier. It was a somber gathering: a dozen neighbors seated around the heavy mahogany dining-room table no one had used for over a decade. Now there were pans of macaroni and cheese and a red velvet cake and a huge platter of fruit, food enough to last a month if Arlie had had an appetite.
Arlyn's father had been a ferryboat captain, the center of her world, especially in his last years; the captain had burned brighter in the grasp of his illness, a shining star in the dark. A usually silent man, he began to tell stories. There were tales of rocks that appeared in the dark, of mysterious reefs whose only purpose seemed to be to sink ferries, of the drowned men he'd known who had never come back. With a red crayon, he drew charts of stars that could lead a lost man home. He told of a tribe who lived on the other side of the water, in far-off Connecticut, who could sprout wings in the face of disaster. They looked like normal people until the ship went down, or the fire raged, and then they suddenly revealed themselves. Only then did they manage their escape.
On his night table there was a collection of stones the captain said he had swallowed when he was a young man; he'd gone down with a ship and had been the lone survivor. One minute he'd been standing on deck, and the next, he'd been above it all, in the sky. He'd fallen hard and fast into the surf of Connecticut, with a mouth and a belly full of stones.
When the doctor came to tell the captain there was no hope, they had a drink together and instead of ice the captain put a stone in the cups of whiskey.
It will bring you good luck, he'd told the doctor. All I want is for my daughter to be happy. That's all the luck I need.
Arlyn had sobbed at his bedside and begged her father not to leave her, but that was not an option or a choice. The last advice the captain had given her, while his voice still held out, was that the future was an unknown and unexpected country, and that Arlyn should be prepared for almost anything. She had been grief stricken as her father lay dying but now she felt weightless, the way people do when they're no longer sure they have a reason to be connected to this world. The slightest breeze could have carried her away, into the night sky, across the universe.
Arlyn held on to the porch banister and leaned out over the azaleas. Red and pink flowers, filled with buds. Arlyn was an optimist, despite her current situation. She was young enough not to see a glass as half empty or half full, but as a beautiful object into which anything might be poured. She whispered a bargain, as though her whispering could make it true.
The first man who walks down the street will be my one love and I will be true to him as long as he's true to me.
She turned around twice and held her breath as a way to seal the bargain. She wore her favorite shoes, ones her father had bought her in Connecticut, leather slippers so light she felt as though she were barefoot. Her red hair reached her waist. She had seventy-four freckles on her face -- she had counted -- and a long, straight nose her father had assured her was elegant rather than large. She watched the sky darken. There was a line of ashes up above, a sprinkling of chimney soot. Perhaps her father was up there, watching over her. Perhaps he was knocking on his casket, begging to be let out. Or maybe he was here with her still, in her heart, making it difficult for her to breathe whenever she thought about her life without him. Arlie felt her aloneness inside her, but she was hopeful, too.