A bestselling novel of suburban daydreams and the magic of one woman who makes her own way in the world
On Hemlock Street, the houses are identical, the lawns tidy, and the families traditional. A perfect slice of suburbia, this Long Island community shows no signs of change as the 1950s draw to a close—until the fateful August morning when Nora Silk arrives.
Recently divorced, Nora mows the lawn in slingback pumps and climbs her roof in the middle of the night to clean the gutters. She works three jobs, and when her casseroles don’t turn out, she feeds her two boys—eight-year-old Billy and his baby brother, James—Frosted Flakes for supper. She wears black stretch pants instead of Bermuda shorts, owns twenty-three shades of nail polish, and sings along to Elvis like a schoolgirl.
Though Nora is eager to fit in on Hemlock Street, her effect on the neighbors is anything but normal. The wives distrust her, the husbands desire her, and the children think she’s a witch. But through Nora’s eyes, the neighborhood appears far from perfect. Behind every neatly trimmed hedge and freshly painted shutter is a family struggling to solve its own unique mysteries. Inspired by Nora, the residents of Hemlock Street finally unlock the secrets that will transform their lives forever.
A tale of extraordinary discoveries, Seventh Heaven is an ode to a single mother’s heroic journey and a celebration of the courage it takes to change.
“A pleasure . . . Seventh Heaven is not only entertaining—it gives one new respect for tender suburban dreams.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Part American Graffiti, part early Updike . . . Simultaneously chronicles the coming of age of a group of teenagers in a Long Island town, and the gradual dissolution of their parents’ repressed, middle-class world . . . A parable about changing times and changing values.” —The New York Times
“A consummate joy . . . Magical.” —The Washington Post Book World
“Before you know it, you’re half in love with the ordinary people who inhabit this book; you’re seduced by their susceptibility to the remarkable.” —The New Yorker
“A major accomplishment.” —The Boston Globe
“Brilliant and astonishing . . . Suffused with magic. If ever a book deserved to be called ‘haunting,’ this is it.” —Cosmopolitan
“Terrific . . . Seventh Heaven is one of those rare novels so abundant with life it seems to overflow its own pages.” —Newsweek
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.
In the full flowering of her extraordinary talent, Hoffman has produced a wise, poignant and uplifting novel luminous with the sensitive evocation of ordinary lives. The setting is a Long Island, N.Y., housing development from 1959 to 1960, a place of conforming, happy families where husbands mow the lawns of the tract houses and wives meet for coffee, where ``safety hung over the neighborhood like a net.'' The arrival of Nora Silk, a brassy divorcee with two young children, is the catalyst for disturbing changes and events, some of them violent. Plucky, impetuous, innocently seductive and a messy housekeeper, Nora is anathema to the subdivision wives, who ostracize her and whose children torment her eight-year-old clairvoyant son, Billy. But as Nora's presence disturbs the community, it is slowly revealed that behind the identical facades of the houses are secret lives of turmoil, restlessness and longing. As in all Hoffman novels, mundane existence is disrupted in surprising ways: families disintegrate, a teenager dies, a placid housewife disappears. And ultimately Nora, whose optimism about her dead-end life is unquenchable, becomes an instrument of healing. Hoffman has intuitive grasp of the thoughts and feelings that are masked by conventional behavior. Like some of her characters, she seems to have a spooky ability to read thoughts; how else to account for her unerring understanding of people of nearly every age and across a broad social spectrum? She has a gift for perceiving the cruelty of children and the wide gulf that yawns between the most loving, attentive parents and their offspring's unknown wishes and deeds. As usual, she tells more than a compulsively readable story. She does magic, she unsettles you and she leaves you feeling emotionally purged and satisfied. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selections.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Seventh heaven, to experience extreme joy
Hoffmans books are always well written, nothing eloquent but an easy read. Searching for a better life and knowing what she wants, Nora moves into a neighborhood where everybody is struggling for the meaning of life or the meaning of their lives.
I kept waiting for an actual plot to appear. It never did.