I used to read Alice Hoffman years ago, but I stopped, and I’m not sure why. It isn’t that I don’t like magical realism, because I do. I think I read something of hers that veered too far off into the realm of horror, though I can’t remember what it was. How’s that for sounding like I don’t know what I’m talking about?
I picked up Blackbird House because I was in the mood for some short stories, and I’ve enjoyed books with this kind of premise before: the book offers a series of connected stories about a place, where the action happens over a long span of time. Sometimes characters recur from story to story, but sometimes not. Characters who take center stage in one story might be peripheral in a later one. Descendants of early characters inhabit the later stories.
I had forgotten what a beautiful writer Hoffman is. Not a word is wrong in these stories; the images are haunting and beautiful. The white-feathered blackbird who appears in every story, well some might say it’s a bit heavy-handed, but I liked waiting for it to appear.
Blackbird House was built on Cape Cod hundreds of years ago, and is the scene of much tragedy, but also much healing. The stories begin in the 1700’s and continue to the present day. Illness, isolation, loneliness, violence, redemption and second chances are all themes. Ten-year old boys occur frequently. They are often the fulcrum around which a story turns.
This is a slim volume, which some might read in a weekend, but it took me a long time. I never wanted to read it unless I knew I could read a single story all in one sitting, so I had to wait for those opportunities. It was worth it.
(Book 25, 2007)