Flashback Friday: Second Nature by Alice Hoffman

It’s time, once again, for Flashback Friday…

Flashback Friday is a chance to dig deep in the darkest nooks of our bookshelves and pull out the good stuff from way back. As a reader, a blogger, and a consumer, I tend to focus on new, new, new… but what about the old favorites, the hidden gems? On Flashback Fridays, I want to hit the pause button for a moment and concentrate on older books that are deserving of attention.

If you’d like to join in, here are the Flashback Friday book selection guidelines:

  1. Has to be something you’ve read yourself
  2. Has to still be available, preferably still in print
  3. Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!

My pick for this week’s Flashback Friday:

Newest edition. Pretty, but really provides no clue what this book is about.

This looks like the one I read, way back when.

Second Nature by Alice Hoffman

(published 1994)

I have a love/hate relationship with Alice Hoffman. Not with her personally (we’ve never had the pleasure of meeting), but with her novels. When they work for me, I fall in love. But when they don’t, I tend to really, really dislike them. Second Nature goes into the “love” column, along with Practical Magic and The Dovekeepers, among others.

The Amazon description of Second Nature is a bit vague:

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Dovekeepers, Second Nature tells the story of a suburban woman, Robin Moore, who discovers her own free spirit through a stranger she brings home to her perfectly ordered neighborhood. As Robin impulsively draws this beautiful, uncivilized man into her world — meanwhile coping with divorce and a troubled teenage son — she begins to question her wisdom and doubt her own heart, and ultimately she changes her ideas about love and humanity.

Not so different from the generic chick-lit, suburban love story type of fiction, right? Well, no. What they’re not telling you is that the man who enters the life of the main character was raised by wolves — so when they say “uncivilized”, they really mean uncivilized.

A little more info from the Library Journal synopsis:

Hoffman continues her sensitive portrayal of outcasts, growing more bizarre with each book. Here she introduces Stephen, raised by wolves and about to be declared incurably insane, who is rescued by a woman in the midst of a messy divorce. This small Long Island town is complete with pettiness, busybodies, and interrelated lives. Robin’s estranged husband is on the police force, her brother is Stephen’s psychiatrist, and her teenage son dates the girl next door, whose sister is murdered. It is one of many murders (first animals, then humans), all easy to blame on you-know-who.

Okay, yes, bizarre might be an apt description. But it’s also passionate and lovely, and I love a good story that doesn’t follow along the well-trodden path. Maybe every single plot detail doesn’t quite hold up to logical scrutiny, but that’s beside the point. What makes Second Nature work, at least for me, is the depth of emotion and fire that practically drip from the pages.

So, what’s your favorite blast from the past? Leave a tip for your fellow booklovers, and share the wealth. It’s time to dust off our old favorites and get them back into circulation! 

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join in the Flashback Friday bloghop, post about a book you love on your blog, and share your link below. Don’t have a blog post to share? Then share your favorite oldie-but-goodie in the comments section. Jump in!

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