Top Picks: Novelist Alice Hoffman

Readers love the whimsical elements that turn ordinary life into something magical in Alice Hoffman's stories. The novelist creates compelling characters that you can root for while she explores the relationships in families and between lovers in ways that ring emotionally true.

Over a 40-year career, Hoffman's written her trademark luminous prose, filled with images of nature, in 26 novels for adults, 12 novels for teens and children, a collection of short stories and the nonfiction book Survival Lessons.

Hoffman is influenced by Shirley Jackson, Emily Bronte, Edward Eager and her favorite, Ray Bradbury, who she credits with helping her overcome writer’s block. Many people remember her novel Here on Earth for being an Oprah pick, but she's written other amazing novels that deserve attention. In honor of Hoffman's 65th birthday on March 16, here are my top picks.

Can we ever change our basic nature? In Blue Diary, Ethan Ford is arrested for something that seems completely alien to who he is now—a loving husband, father, volunteer firefighter and hero. His wife, Josie, and son, Collie, are left to search his past and find out whether a life of goodness can redeem a terrible crime.

Blue Diary is available in other formats.

Three sisters who live on Long Island share a fairy-tale world with its own language and a dark secret that almost destroys Elv, the eldest sister. The Story Sisters struggle to connect to each other and the real world; their journeys take them to New York and Paris. The relationships between the sisters and their mother, Annie, are tested in ways that readers can understand; there is also tragedy and self-inflicted pain that the sisters must overcome to reconnect with each other.

The Story Sisters is available in other formats.

Haddon is a private school that keeps separate from the town, but after a body is found in the river, the remaining characters struggle to understand what truly happened. The River King has ghosts, roses that mysteriously bloom, love, betrayal and an ending that shows how we must move on from our past to find our future.

The River King is available an eBook.

In a departure from her usual contemporary settings, The Marriage of Opposites is a historical novel set on the island of St. Thomas. There is a small Jewish community of escapees from the Spanish Inquisition, and Rachel is the daughter of one of them. She longs for Paris and instead is forced into marriage. After her husband dies, she sets out to reclaim her life and passion, even igniting scandal when she marries her husband's nephew. Eventually she becomes the mother of Camille Pissarro, founder of the Impressionists.

The Marriage of Opposites is available in other formats.

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