Table of Contents
Praise for Alice Huffman and
“Tender, strikingly simple, and deeply memorable.”
“An affecting novel of exquisite delicacy, with humor, warmth, and sensitivity. Miss Hoffman heals wounds with the gentle touch of an angel.”
“Alice Hoffman has created some wonderful characters and she must love them all.”
“An emotional roller coaster,”
—SEATTLE E TIMES
“Within pages, the reader falls in love with this very real little girl ... Moving, dramatic, and painfully human.”
“Hoffman has taken [a] highly charged subject and made it real.”
THE DETROIT NEWS
“I fell in love with this book. I tell in love with this family... From now on, Alice Hoffman is on my list of must-read authors.”
“Delicately bewitching ... Hoffman plays the cards out with skillful tension and a commanding emotional imagination.”
—LOS ANGELES TIMES
“Deeply moving... At Risk
displays Hoffman’s seemingly effortless ability to write simply and profoundly about the inner workings of the human psyche ... A much needed book on the most painful subject of this decade.”
“One of the best novels I have ever read. It’s an important book, dealing with serious issues that can affect all of our families.”
“Graceful ... emotionally potent ... A cathartic tale that begs us, with heartbreaking eloquence, to stop looking the other way.”
“Hoffman has moved beyond a promising talent into the realm of established writer.”
“Hoffman seduces her readers with her simplicity of style, and it’s that simplicity that gives her writing such power. It’s difficult to avoid slipping under Hoffman’s spell.”
“Uplifting ... hopeful ... important ... Hoffman has a rare ability to give ordinary moments an uncanny new life.”
Also by Alice Hoffman...
“[Hoffman] has proved once again her potency as a storyteller, combining the mundane with the fantastic in a totally engaging way.”
BOSTON SUNDAY HERALD
LOS ANGELES TIMES
“[A] delicious fantasy of witchcraft and love in a world where gardens smell of lemon verbena and happy endings are possible.”
“Hoffman’s best ... readers will relish this magical tale.”
“Witches and ghosts, spells, and sleight of hand weave a fanciful atmosphere in Alice Hoffman’s tender comedy about clairvoyance, spells, and family ties.”
“A cosmic romance leavened with just the right touch of pragmatism and humor.”
“Hoffman’s writing has plenty of power. Her best sentences are like incantations—they won’t let you get away.”
DAYTON DAILY NEWS
“Alice Hoffman is at the top of her form in her latest novel ... The triumphs of
lie in its humane insights and compassionate epiphanies; its lustrous prose and its seductive landscape.”
“Ms. Hoffman writes quite wonderfully about the magic in our lives and in the battered, indifferent world. I don’t know that she’s written better ... This novel vibrates with feeling ... Alice Hoffman has written a magnificent examination of a troubled child about whom her readers will care enormously.”
—THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
“Hoffman’s novels get better and better.
is replete with sensuous, lyrical description and powerfully compelling characters. Written with wit and insight and compassion, the story is memorably suspenseful, memorably erotic.”
“With her glorious prose and extraordinary eye for the magic of the mundane ... Alice Hoffman seems to know what it means to be a human being.”—
“Fast-moving... she has produced a murder mystery tinged with the feel of a fairy tale ... a breezy, alluring book.”
—THE WASHINGTON POST
—NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Books by Alire Hoffman
THE DROWNING SEASON
HERE ON EARTH
THE RIVER KING
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead. business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content
A Berkley Book / published by arrangement with G P. Putnam’s Sons
Copyright © 1988 by Alice Hoffman.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
The “B” design is a trademark belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Berkley mass-market edition / September 1989
Berkley trade paperback edition / November 1998
eISBN : 978-1-101-14188-5
The author gratefully acknowledges permission for the use of lyrics from “True Blue” by Madonna Ciccone and Stephen Bray, from the album
copyright © 1986 by WB Music Corp., Blue Disquc Company, Inc., Webo Girl Publishing, Black Lion Music (ASCAP). All U.S. and Canadian rights controlled by the above publishers. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of
Madonna Ciccone and Stephen Bray.
THERE IS A WASP IN THE kitchen. Drawn by the smell of apricot jam, lazy from the morning’s heat, the wasp hovers above the children. All through town a yellow light is cast over the green lawns and the rhododendrons. By dusk there will be a storm, with raindrops that are surprisingly cold, but of course by then the birds in the backyards and out on the marsh will have taken flight. Where do birds go in the rain? How do they disappear so thoroughly? Already, the sparrows in the chestnut tree are restless. They’re not fooled by the pure yellow light any more than they’re fooled by this last burst of August heat.
“Look at her abdomen,” Charlie says of the wasp. “It’s full of eggs.”
Amanda, who at eleven is older than her brother by three years, puts a dish towel over her head. “Get it out of here!” she says. “Kill it now, and I mean it.”
“No way,” Charlie says. He is a collector of specimens, a lover of anything mildly revolting: frogs, insects in bottles, bats’ wings, centipedes. “I don’t have to take orders from someone who still wears braces,” Charlie informs his sister.
“Mom,” Amanda yells.
The wasp, startled, flees to the ceiling.
“Oh, great,” Charlie moans. He stands up on his chair and lifts the jam jar into the air to tempt the wasp from her hiding place.
“You are really disgusting,” Amanda tells Charlie. “Mom!” she yells.
“Chicken,” Charlie says to his sister.
“Moron,” Amanda counters.