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on March 20, 2003
This is the fourth book I've read by Alice Hoffman. I have also read 'At Risk', 'Turtle Moon' and 'Second Nature.' If you haven't read Alice Hoffman before, I highly recommened you start with this one. She tends to write about slightly odd things. Seventh Heaven (and I have no idea why it's called that,) is a story of a small community where every house is the same and everyone is married with children and everybody is happy (or at least pretends to be) and everything is perfect. Then Nora Silk and her two boys move in. Nora is divorced and is raising her children by herself. In all the other families, the man works and the woman stays home but because Nora is on her own, she works.
Nora is treated harshly because she's different. Her kids aren't always spotless and they don't get the most nutritious meal but she does the best she can. As time goes on, things change in the community, everything is a little off.
Seventh Heaven has some adult material and so I wouldn't recommended it for young teenagers or kids. It has sex and one instance of murder in it.
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on March 17, 2001
This is my first experience with Alice Hoffman, and what a disappointment. She has a lovely, easy style. But the characters? It's not that I don't sympathize with divorced, single mothers, lonely teenagers, unfulfilled women, et al. Am I supposed to empathize with or like Nora Silk, who refuses to adequately provide what her obviously emotionally needy and lonely son requires, and who shamelessly capitalizes on her neighbor's offers of assistance while she secretly sleeps with the neighbor's 17-year-old son? Am I supposed to empathize with or like the Saint, who may be genuinely concerned about neighborhood children but largely ignores his own? Or poor little Donna, who would rather run away and be thin than to stay at home and face her challenge of repairing a marriage and raising her children? I understand Hoffman's desire to de-mythologize the '50s suburban experience, but to foist Nora Silk onto her readers as some kind of positive, liberating harbinger of the decade to come is naive and even condescending.
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on August 7, 1999
Seventh Heaven is the sixth book I have read by writer, Alice Hoffman. I obviously think she is an interesting storyteller, as well as an excellent writer of words, or else I wouldn't keep reading her novels. Some I like better than others, though I haven't come across a horrible book yet (though Here On Earth is still my least favorite thus far).
I noticed one main thing that all of her books have in common, and that's the feeling of wistfulness and despair in her books. Like many of her other works, Seventh Heaven centers around a town -- a community. Nora Silk, who is one of her main characters, but certainly not the only one, moves into this town as the only divorced woman on the block. This book takes place in 1959 where people just stayed married, regardless of whether or not the two people involved are happy in the relationship. Not only is Nora divorced, but she's raising two boys: Billy, an elementary-school aged child, and James, a baby. Billy has problems in school fitting in, and becomes withdrawn to the point where he tries to make himself invisible. Nora is a woman whom the other mothers steer clear from at first. She's a woman who doesn't appear to raise her children in a conventional way. She's also a woman who will take romance regardless of the form when she starts having an affair with a seventeen-year-old neighbor, Ace McCarthy.
This story isn't just about Nora being dejected, as well as her kids, by a whole neighborhood, and then later accepted. No, it's also about the neighbors: The McCarthy boys, Ace and Jackie, who can't seem to stay out of trouble. It's about the cop, Joe Hennessy, who lives across the street from Nora with his wife, Ellen, and boy, Stevie, who likes to torture Nora's son, Billy, in school. It's about the Shapiros, Danny and Rickie, and their parents. Danny, a kid who seems smart enough to get into any college he wants, slowly drifts, and his sister, Rickie, who seems to be confused about her own growing pains and morals. It's also about Donna Durgin, who walks out on her young children and husband because her life feels too empty. One cannot forget that this is also a story about Cathy Corrigan, who gets killed in a car accident and seems to haunt some of her peers from the grave. Like many of Alice Hoffman's books, Seventh Heaven leaves you with a weird, unconnected feeling after you're finished with the book. You may feel that way because that is how her characters are portrayed, as if nothing in the end was ever resolved. This book, much like Turtle Moon, and even Fortune's Daughter, leaves you with that very feeling.
Seventh Heaven is a very full read, with a very involved storyline, and very humble and real characters. It shows how very unique Alice Hoffman is as a writer.
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on July 4, 2003
I was recommended Hoffman by my sister and decided to check out what she is about. A smidge of magic realism mixed with a portrayal of a community and the characters that comprise it. As a man who holds some distaste and disdain for my suburban roots, I enjoyed the pinpricks at the balloon of suburban conformity. I was also genuinely surprised by this book at points, especially in the Ace/Nora axis.
I was not fully satisfied with this book, but I feel that any dissatisfaction reflects my own situation more than the authors' failure to achieve her aims. The change agents in this book are women who throw off the shackles of an imprisoning 50s ideal of woman and the children these women have birthed. The men in this book do not grow in the same kind of ways.
I may read more Hoffman to develop a greater understanding of her work. I feel that I have read a good book but I may not be the intended audience for it.
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on June 26, 2004
This is another fantastic book from the author of 'Practical Magic,' 'Blue Diary,' and 'The Probable Future.' Nora Silk is not the typical woman of 1959 Long Island. She's divorced, has two children, and never seems to care if they get dirty while they play. She wears high heels and black stretch pants, and her nails are always done in bright colours. Her eldest son, Billy, tends to pick stray thoughts out of the minds of people around him, and James, only months-old, eats anything he can find in one chubby cute hand. When they move onto the street where the norm is two parents, two children, and nothing unexpected, Nora Silk is ostracized, Billy is bullied, and it seems that the status quo will always regain its balance.

But the men start to notice Nora's distinct grace with more than a bit of lust, and Nora's comments and advice to the women start to break cracks in the veneer of "we should do what we have always done." Sparks fly, a trace of magic is in the air, and before long, 1959 is going to roll over into the sixties, and Nora Silk's influence will be felt by all.

I adored this book - much as I adored the previously mentioned Hoffman titles I listed above - and had that trademarked Hoffman lump in my throat when the book was drawing to a close. As always, it's the characters - and the level of empathy you feel for all of them - that keep you going, and Hoffman's deft touch with a trace of the supernatural always leaves you charmed. A ghost here, a clairvoyant there, and a tangled thread of folk remedies throughout, there's something magical in how she writes, and how the reader feels while watching her worlds.

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on November 27, 2003
Catherine Anderson always pens the absolute in leading men. Her romance heros are consistently tall, physically attractive, self-disciplined, and nine times out of ten unbelievably wealthy. In other words, the ideal romance hero. Anderson's leading ladies are usually cute, generally patterned after the girl next door, and nine times out of ten have a history of torment. In other words, the girl needs his help. In "Seventh Heaven", Catherine Anderson sticks to her recipe and prepares another romance delicacy.
Joe Lakota, an award winning high school and collegiate quarterback, was destined for the big times. This all-star athlete had the world by a string, including the sweetness girl in town. Marilee Nelson lived in a sheltered world. Her family protected her with love and Joe Lakota idolized her. Unfortunately, all too soon, her world came crashing down. Brutally, she was persuaded to sacrifice Joe Lakota. Instead Marilee Nelson chose to protect him by ending their lifelong friendship and love.
Ten years have slipped away and Joe Lakota has returned to the small Oregon town, of his boyhood; where he will raise his small, vulnerable son -- the small Oregon town Marilee Nelson still calls home. Joe Lakota may have returned home but not to the once naive Marilee Nelson.
In this story, Catherine Anderson has created a lovely page turner, but it is, at times, slow going. Marilee has some grave hangups and periodically the author delivers the healing with a painful pace. Nevertheless, this is a good book, but "Annie's Song" is better, if you have not read that Anderson classic, do run out and get a copy.
Grace Atkinson, Ontario - Canada.
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on March 22, 2002
This book presents the sad tale of a woman who has been viciously raped and has severe post traumatic stress disorder as a result. She is more or less a total mess until her old boyfriend comes back into her life. He helps her heal, etc. After a lot of drama, all is well.
I mean, yuck. Rape can certainly cause PTSD, but this is unrealistic. To give just one example, Marilee achieves sexual healing remarkably quickly, once she can bring herself to be intimate with Joe. That's not exactly how it happens in real life.
But really, my main problem is that Marilee is a basket case until Joe comes back. In reality, a woman who did not pursue getting her PTSD treated in 10 years would probably not start working on it all of the sudden because her boyfriend was back in the picture. But let's say for the sake of argument that she would do this, realistically. The message of this book is still damaging IMO. Marilee does not see herself as a person of value until she has Joe's love once more.
Also, I am beyond sick of the "marriage of convenience" plot. That convention should be abandoned immediately IMO.
For the sake of those young rape survivors reading romance novels, I hope the treatment of rape gets a lot more empowering than this. Ideally, Marilee would have realized her personal worth and started getting better long before Joe came back.
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on January 27, 2002
Catherine Anderson writes emotionally charged contemporary and historical romances where the heroines are frequently wounded young ladies and the heros are extremely masculine rescuers who are also exceptionally sensitive. "Seveth Heaven" certainly fits this mold. It is the story of Marilee Nelson, a nice Catholic girl from a small Oregon town who abruptly broke off her engagement to her football star fiancee, Joe Lakota. A decade later, Joe returns to town with his fragile young son and quickly realizes that there were tragic circumstances that caused Marilee to break up with him years ago. He proceeds to gently but persistently tear down her emotional barriers and try to recapture the romance of their youth. Anderson is an extremely sympathetic writer, and she handles the backlash of physical and emotional trama very well. Her characters are appealing, and the sensual tension is well-paced. Unfortunately, this is ground that Anderson has traveled before, and more adeptly, in "Forever After." If you've enjoyed Anderson's previous work, you will like "Seventh Heaven", but don't expect to see something new from this talented writer.
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on October 17, 2001
7th Heaven is another one of Catherine Anderson's emotionally charged love stories set in authentic, real world circumstances.
The main characters of this book, Joe Lakota and Marilee Nelson, reminded me of Ace Keegan and Caitlin O'Shannessy, the main characters in Anderson's historical novel, Keegan's Lady. Joe, like Ace, is the epitome of the alpha male: strong, dominating, quick-tempered, and protective of his dependents. Marilee, like Caitlin, struggles with the trauma of her past. Two very human individuals with imperfections that make their story all the more believable.
High school sweethearts ten years before, Joe, a famous professional football player, and Marilee, an agoraphobic children's book writer/author, struggle to find their way back together. After a bitter divorce, he's returned to his small hometown of Laurel Creek, Oregon, with his son Zachary, who needs care for his PTSD. Circumstances develop that lead Joe and Marilee into a marriage of convenience to save Zachary from being returned to the custody of Joe's abusive ex-wife.
Joe immediately sees a similar behavior pattern in his son and new wife, Marilee -- both use psychological barriers to keep the world away. Patiently Joe nurtures them.
When Joe is arrested for murdering one of the men who raped Marilee ten years before, she must conquer her phobia to prove his innocent.
Catherine Anderson weaves together secrets, mystery, and real world issues with tender romance and justice in an unfair world through compelling characters that draw you into their world. As you read 7th Heaven, you'll experience a roller coaster ride of emotions and a deep sense of rightness at the healing power of love.
A touching love story that will stay with you long after the final page.
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on October 9, 2000
Marilee Nelson is haunted by a terrible secret (and yes, it is a very bad one). It's a secret she will share with no one, including her fiance Joe Lakota. Rather than confide in him, Marilee breaks their engagement and convinces Joe that she has left him for someone else. Heartbroken, Joe leaves for the big city and embarks on a high profile professional football career. Seventh Heaven begins ten years later...
Having recently been granted custody of his 4-year-old son Zachary, 31-year-old Joe Lakota moves back to his hometown in Oregon to raise him. After ten years, he is still and will always be in love with Marilee Nelson. All of their lives--clear up until she broke off their engagement ten years past--the couple had been best friends, inseparable from the time she was five and he was eight. It doesn't take Joe long to figure out that his boyhood sweetheart had lied about leaving him for another man, nor does it take him long to figure out her secret, or at least, a fundamental part of it. The problem for Joe now is figuring out how to get through to Marilee and pick up where they left off ten years ago.
Marilee never stopped loving Joe, but she doesn't feel any more able to confide in him at age 28 than she had at age 18. There were valid reasons why Marilee kept her secret and as far as she can tell, those reasons haven't changed. But Joe won't give up on her or the love they have shared all of these years. When Joe's ex-wife (who was abusive to their son) petitions to regain custody, Joe asks Marilee to help him in the courts by marrying him. Marilee realizes she has been handed a second chance at happiness with Joe, but will she find the courage to take it?
The irony of Seventh Heaven is that for the first half of the novel Marilee comes across as a cliche "wilting flower" heroine...not a personal favorite of mine. Marilee's reaction to her secret feels out of proportion to the secret itself, not in terms of the intensity of her reaction, but in terms of the duration (ten years) of it. But then in the second half, the reader learns alongside the hero that even if we might have thought we knew the extent of Marilee's secret, we didn't really have a clue as to how gruesome and appalling it truly is. At this point in the book, Marilee seems more like a warrior than a wilting flower. She only gets better and better as she allows herself to get in touch with her anger and emotions for the first time in ten years.
There are a couple of spots in the novel's first half where the pace of the book slows down a bit, though not so much as to bore you. The last half of Seventh Heaven is extremely fast-paced and more than compensates for any lagging moments experienced in the first half. As the reader learns more and more of Marilee's secret, and then again when a murder and an indictment come into play, it becomes next to impossible to put this book down.
-full review originally published in The Romance Reader
-see profile for breakdown of sexual content ratings
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