Thursday, July 22, 2010

LOVE--its complicated

Here On Earth by Alice Hoffman is an Oprah's Book Club book. Let me start by saying that I usually do not read books from Oprah's list. They are usually just way too depressing. However, this was recommended to me by a good friend who usually has great reading taste so I decided that I would give it a try--as usual, I was not disappointed.

Ms. Hoffman spins an extremely complex tale of love. Love of all kinds; first love, friends, true love, family, young love, and sometimes those kinds of loves that are all consuming and even at times self-destructing.

March Murray, the main character returns with her teenage daughter to her small hometown in Massachusetts, after being gone for 19 years, for the funeral of her family's housekeeper and, basically, the only real mother that March has ever known. In returning to her past, March has to deal with her "first love" and maybe her only love -- Hollis, a boy she has loved since she first laid eyes on him at the age of 11. What Hollis and March experience is a love that is so strong that it consumes you. What March must find out is if she can survive it.

As you get familiar with Hollis and March, you will find yourself rooting for the Hollis that March sees, the Hollis that no one else knows. But at other times you will find yourself siding with March's daughter Gwen and her best friend Susie, in just wanting to kick Hollis' teeth in.

However, if you read this story carefully you can learn a lot about love, not through the story's main characters of March and Hollis, but from the slew of other characters that the author uses to gives us different views of love and what it really means to love and be loved. How would you deal with a lover's betrayal, domestic violence, a lover who doesn't return your love, a cheat? It's easy to say "I would do...." But when actually in the situation, sometimes love really is blind or maybe it just sees it differently. Ms. Hoffman does a great job of showing this through each and every one of her characters.

Sometimes it's hard to watch someone be involved in a self-destructive love. Your advice is neither taken nor wanted. This is also true of someone who is in love but refuses to really see what love is either because through their childhood they have watched love hurt someone close to them or they have been hurt by love themselves. By showing us love from so many angles and voices, Ms. Hoffman lets us see that there is something to be learned from many different encounters in love.

A book that can pull at your heart strings and still offer you the opportunity to step outside of yourself and examine how you view love and walk for a little while in someone else's shoes is well worth the read.

My only complaint is that the ending left you hanging slightly in regards to some of the characters. This is not entirely a bad thing though, as it gave me the opportunity to let my imagination explore where I wanted their love to take them.

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