The bestselling inspirational story of one family coming to terms with unspeakable tragedy and immeasurable love
In a lovely old house near the coast of Massachusetts, the Farrells go through the routines of a typical August morning. Eight-year-old Charlie, a junior biologist and dinosaur expert, tries to collect another one of his insect specimens. His sister, Amanda, a talented gymnast who at eleven years old is already saving her money to try out for the Olympic team, prepares for her last meet of the summer. Ivan, their absent-minded father, is involved with his work as an astronomer. Out in the garden, Ivan’s wife, Polly, wonders how she can trick her children into eating more zucchini.
They are a family as unique and ordinary as any other, but their world will soon be shattered when Amanda is diagnosed with AIDS. In an instant, everything that gave their lives meaning is ripped away, and the intimacy that once came so naturally vanishes. Too overcome with grief to turn to each other, Ivan and Polly seek solace elsewhere. Charlie is abandoned by his best friend and, for long stretches at a time, forgotten by his parents. Amanda, who holds on to her dreams so tightly, must somehow find a way to let go.
Torn apart by the prospect of their loss, Polly, Ivan, and Charlie must find the courage to come back together again—for Amanda’s sake and for their own. At Risk is an exquisite book about true sorrow and even truer devotion.
“Miss Hoffman heals wounds with the gentle touch of an angel.” —Joseph Heller
“Brilliant . . . Explosive . . . Heart-rending.” —Chicago Tribune
“Deeply impressive . . . Powerful . . . A major novelist.” —Newsweek
“First rate.” —Kurt Vonnegut
“I have rarely encountered a work that has moved me as strongly. . . . Extraordinary.” —Mademoiselle
“I fell in love with this book. I fell in love with this family. From now on, Alice Hoffman is on my list of must-read authors.” —Judy Blume
Alice Hoffman was born in New York City and grew up on Long Island. She wrote her first novel, Property Of, while studying creative writing at Stanford University, and since then has published more than thirty books for readers of all ages, including the recent New York Times bestsellers The Museum of Extraordinary Things and The Dovekeepers. Two of her novels, Practical Magic and Aquamarine, have been made into films, and Here on Earth was an Oprah’s Book Club choice. All told, Hoffman’s work has been published in more than twenty languages and one hundred foreign editions. She lives outside of Boston.
With this moving novel, Hoffman has written a story about a family attacked by tragedy, and has given it a larger relevance by confronting one of the most frightening issues of our times. The Farrells are a middle-class family living in a small New England town. Ivan Farrell is an astronomer, wife Polly a photographer, eight-year-old Charlie a budding biologist and 11-year-old Amanda a talented gymnast. Hoffman has few rivals in depicting domestic scenes: the bickering between siblings, the tension between spouses, and withal, the humor and love that holds families together. Suddenly the Farrells are singled out for grief. Amanda, who has been winning gymnastic meets despite a summer-long malaise, tests positive for AIDS, contracted some five years before when she was transfused with contaminated blood after an appendectomy. In unsensationalized detail, Hoffman depicts the effects of her illness. Too stunned, angry and anguished even to turn to each other, Polly and Ivan retreat into separate worlds. Charlie is abandoned by his best friend and shunned by his schoolmates. Amanda, an average adolescent who loves Madonna records, must come to grips with the process of dying. The hysterical reaction of some members of the community is a further blow. Hoffman's sensitive handling of this material is both matter of fact and heartbreaking. Ivan's friendship with a man he meets through the AIDS hotline, Polly's search for comfort with Amanda's pediatrician, Charlie's stoic bewilderment, Amanda's bond with a young woman who is a medium (the only evidence in this novel of Hoffman's characteristic feeling for the supernatural) are all beautifully portrayed. This will be a book that people will talk about and recommend. 100,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo; first serial to Redbook; movie rights to 20th Century-Fox; BOMC main selection.