three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
27-Mar-Apr-2007
user_rating: 
0

A-Skylight ConfessionsNo sooner has 17-year-old Arlyn Singer buried her father than she decides that the next man who walks through her door will be the one for her. That night, fate brings her Yale student John Moody, son of a famed architect. They spend the weekend in passion, and when he returns to Yale, she follows. They’re soon married, living in John’s father’s famous Glass Slipper house, and mismatched in every way. When tragedy strikes Arlyn and John must carry on, the story turns to their dysfunctional children—and the secrets, ghosts, and puzzles that continue to haunt all of their lives.
Little, Brown. 272 pages. $24.99. ISBN: 0316058785

Baltimore Sun 4 of 5 Stars
"Skylight Confessions, about the magic of love and the perils of fate, may be the saddest book she’s ever written, but it is also one of her very best. … [Arlie’s] ephemeral self is what fuels the tale—she is a fairy-tale creature, to be sure, and yet she is also obviously a flesh-and-blood woman with deep and compelling desires." Victoria A. Brownworth

Cleveland Plain Dealer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The spare realism of Arlie’s illness, surely informed by the author’s own cancer, diagnosed in 1998, is harrowing but never descends into disease-of-the-month voyeurism as so many novels targeted to women do. … Hoffman has shelved the potions and bizarre powers and delivered a haunting meditation on the curse of bottomless grief, a wickedly hard spell to break." Andrea Simakis

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"It is a fairy tale imbued with the intense emotional undercurrents of adolescence and haunted by loss and failures of love. … In a novel like Skylight Confessions, which is sometimes heavy-handed, sometimes sappy, she gives us the heartbreak of a dying young mother and her love for her son, the solace of the green days of May, and the possibilities of art and of love winning out." Jane Ciabattari

Minneapolis Star Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[E]ven when the plot sounds like leavings from a soap opera, Hoffman saves the day with her control of the story and her signature fairy dust. Improbably, somewhere in this tangle of sorrow and blighted relationships, she finds the magic of human connection." Ellen Emry Heltzel

Wall Street Journal 2 of 5 Stars
"The book has enough intellectual trappings to flatter readers into thinking that they are getting some mental nourishment, but in essence it is pure romance novel and nothing more. … [T]hose who feel that one of literature’s tasks is to challenge such fantasies are likely to wonder at the gap between Alice Hoffman’s high reputation and the thin literary skills on display in her latest work." Brooke Allen

USA Today 1 of 5 Stars
"It doesn’t help that Hoffman has assembled a collection of characters who make you want to run screaming from the room. … There are lots of heavy-handed metaphors about glass houses and people in Connecticut who have wings and can fly (don’t ask) and fathers who don’t know how to love." Jocelyn McClurg

Critical Summary

Fans of Alice Hoffman’s 17 novels (The Ice Queen; Practical Magic; Turtle Moon) will find familiar elements here: fairy-tale plotting, emotional intensity, a naturalistic magic realism, a timeless setting, and superb storytelling. More tragic than her previous novels, Skylight Confessions—about fate, love, grief, forgiveness, and redemption—had some critics weeping, despite what others called the novel’s overly maudlin tone. While Arlyn’s illness adds depth to what might have been escapist fiction, critics disagree over whether the novel is one of Hoffman’s finest. But if, as USA Today claims, it is merely "a romance novel for college graduates," it’s one that readers will likely enjoy.