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Book Review: Skylight Confessions: A Novel by Alice Hoffman

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Alice Hoffman’s new novel Skylight Confessions is a tragic fairytale for adults. Spanning  three generations, it tells a story of Arlyn Singer, the enchanted, fiery-haired daughter of a steamboat captain.

Haunted by the loss of her father, 17-year-old Arlyn vows to love the first man to walk into her life. Magically John Moody, a Yale senior, appears on her doorstep, lost on his way to a party. Enchanted by the achingly beautiful Arlyn, Moody soon finds himself drawn and trapped into a marriage that he will regret. Things begin to deteriorate as Aryln becomes pregnant with their son Sam, and as they move into John's family home, called appropriately The Glass Slipper.

What is suppose to be an enchanting home nested in the sleepy hills of Connecticut become a glass birdcage that traps Arlyn into a loveless marriage with a regretful husband. While Moody turns outward towards his work as an architect and a sympathetic neighbor, Arlyn withdraws inward, focusing her attention on her son, the precocious and artistic Sam. Constantly whispering stories of people who fly, Arlyn passes on her yearning for escape to her son, who learns to hate the glass house in which his father has emotionally imprisoned them.

Arlyn dies soon after the birth of her second child, leaving the baby Bianca and Sam, with bitter memories of a mother trapped forever from flight, love and attention. As Sam fights an ever losing battle with narcotics and sorrow, and Bianca tries to find an ability to love and forgive her family, soot falls, dishes break, and birds cry in the house made of glass.

Exploring themes of fairytales and broken families, Sklylight Confession concocts a beautiful modern fable out of people who are haunted by dreams, love and regret. While there were times that I wish the novel was more complex in its examination of the broken family, I was impressed with Hoffman’s ability to write an entire cast of sympathetic characters.

Although the constantly lost John Moody seems to be the villain to the cast, we see his pain and regret as he deals with his children, who can not forgive him, and as he carries with him the haunted memories of an enchanted woman. The writing is simple and lyrical and if you are in the mood for an tragic fairytale, you have no further to go then Skylight Confessions.

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