Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Illumination Night" by Alice Hoffman

Much about this book is unusual. Alice Hoffman is great with magical realism elements, and making each of her many books stand apart with them- in this one's case, there is someone afflicted with agoraphobia, a giant, a boy who seems incapable of growing, and a teenage girl who seems hellbound on making messes of things wherever she goes. Jody, the teen, is taking care of her grandmother, Elizabeth Rennie after she had an accident. Elizabeth's neighbors, Andre and Vonnie have a son, Simon who doesn't seem to grow any bigger, causing them to have friction in their marriage. As per usual, more characters are drawn into the plot as the story progresses, but none of them truly stuck out to me as particularly likable, except perhaps Simon.

Nonetheless, this was a hard book for me to put down. Something about it calls you back to it even after you read through some difficult scenes and kind of want to put it down. It's an addictive sort of ambivalence, but I wasn't surprised I finished it given my love of Alice Hoffman's works. Others might find themselves a bit out of their depth with the sudden turns of events, regardless of the gratuitous foreshadowing that is the author's characterizations.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'A group of people on Martha's Vineyard are brought together in a web of yearning, sin, eroticism, and ultimate redemption.'

Although I didn't particularly like Vonnie, I could relate to her. She faces many difficult things throughout the course of the book, but remains true to herself. Andre, her husband had me gagging for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes people who have everything get so out of touch that they're willing to ruin everything they have for just a little more. As for Simon, other than the giant (who comes in later in the book), he was my most liked character... and he acted his age.

Jody is pissed that her parents would leave her with her grandmother, who she doesn't really know all that well. She reacts in teenage fashion and rebels in ways that had me alternately rolling my eyes and gritting my teeth. Of course, as a teen, she is bound to be somewhat impulsive, but some of the turns of events in this book left me feeling sad more than anything else.

A favorite snippet:
Andre lets go of Jody, and as she follows him across the street, Jody knows that on the ride home she will sit in the back of the truck, and by then the stars will be as white and sharp as dragon's teeth.
            ~Illumination Night by Alice Hoffman, page 28 of my edition.

Illumination Night is an emotional, and sometimes temperamental magical realism novel that makes you wish you could play God a bit with the characters to tweak the eventual outcome. I think it'd be hard not to feel the ups and downs of the characters, and this I admit as someone who was not all that fond of them. For that reason, I don't feel like it's the best book for those unfamiliar with Hoffman's writing and plotting, but it does have enough of what I love about her writing to make me rate it 4 Stars. If you are suffering from a spell of book apathy, for better or for worse, this might be your cure.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for a magical realism fiction that stays with you emotionally.

Age Advisory: Ages 18+ for sex scenes (some with people under 18), violence, and strange happenings.

Page Count: 256 pages


  1. I don't know whether to read my Hoffman's one at a time or plan month loing marathon next year. I have seven now. I am happy I have this one. It does sound interesting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

    1. If you have her adult books, I'd go one at a time. As much as I love her writing and such, some of her books can be fairly depressing (Faithful is excluded from that, but it's an outlier). I have three Hoffman books in my pile, and I have another shipment en route, just in case the orange man wins the election and I must stay inside with my books until things return to normal. I hope you like her books whenever you get to them.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, La La!
      ~Litha Nelle


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