Alice Hoffman has been called “America’s literary heir to the Brothers Grimm,” and her luminous and remarkable “fables of the everyday” have enchanted readers since the publication of her first novel, Property Of, in 1977. Decades later, with numerous acclaimed and bestselling novels, as well as three short story collections and many books for young adults, Hoffman continues to seduce readers into her vividly imagined worlds.
Writing in The Washington Post Book World, Jack Sullivan says that Hoffman “has a penchant for a near-gothic strangeness and enchantment on the edges of everyday experience.” Her storytelling has the air of a fairy tale and calls to mind the writings of such magical realists as Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende, and Washington Irving.
“Magic in fiction is a long tradition. One of the reasons we like fables and fairy tales is that they’re emotionally true, and page-turners at the same time.”
Often drawn to the story of the outcast and the lonely oddball, Hoffman explains, “My theory is that everyone, at one time or another, has been at the fringe of society in some way: an outcast in high school, a stranger in a foreign country, the best at something, the worst at something, the one who’s different. Looking at it this way, being an outsider is the one thing we all have in common.”
Hoffman is a master at forging miracles from the quotidian and the ordinary. While she explores life’s common struggles—people living in small towns in Massachusetts or Long Island puzzling through essential questions about relationships and intimacy, family and identity, love and survival—she sets her tales in a world that is at once wholly recognizable and at times fantastic. Her protagonists inhabit a universe in which everyday objects—necklaces, river pebbles, birds, old overcoats, roses—become talismans that haunt and guide them as they navigate their way to a deeper understanding of themselves.
Her ambitious and mesmerizing novel The Dovekeepers was a New York Times bestseller, a tour de force of imagination and research set in ancient Israel. It was heralded by Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison as “beautiful, harrowing, a major contribution to twenty-first century literature” and adapted into a TV miniseries.
Some of Hoffman’s most beloved titles include Faithful, the Indie Next Pick and the Library Reads Pick for November 2016; Here On Earth, a modern reworking of Wuthering Heights that was an Oprah Book Club selection; The Marriage of Opposites, about a forbidden love affair that results in the birth of artist Camille Pissarro; and Practical Magic, which was made into a feature film starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. A prequel to Practical Magic, The Rules Of Magic, was released in 2017. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called it “a coming-of-age tale replete with magic and historical reference to the early witch trials. The spellbinding story, focusing on the strength of family bonds through joy and sorrow, will appeal to a broad range of readers. Fans of Practical Magic will be bewitched.” The New York Times wrote that the book’s “strength is a Hoffman hallmark: the commingling of fairy-tale promise with real-life struggle.” In 2018, Simon & Schuster chose The Rules of Magic to kick off its new Book Club Favorites initiative, and a television adaptation is in the works for HBO Max.
Hoffman’s fertile imagination extends well beyond the confines of adult literature. She has enthralled children and teens with her many young adult books, including The Green Witch, Incantation, and Nightbird.
“Alice Hoffman’s new novel will break your heart, and then stitch it back together piece by piece. It’s about love and loss, about history and the world today, about what happens when man goes against the laws of nature for good and for evil. It’s my new favorite Hoffman book—and if you know how much I adore her writing, that’s truly saying something.”
—Jodi Picoult, bestselling author of Small Great Things and My Sister’s Keeper
Hoffman’s newest novel, The World That We Knew, is set in Europe during the Holocaust and follows three young women who must act with courage and to survive history’s darkest hour. In Berlin 1941, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter Lea away to save her from the Nazi regime. She finds her way to a renowned rabbi, but it’s his daughter, Ettie, who offers hope of salvation when she creates a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined, their paths fated to cross, their fortunes linked. Steeped in history and Jewish mythology, The World That We Knew is “[a] spellbinding portrait of what it means to be human in an inhuman world” (Kirkus, starred review). An instant New York Times bestseller, The World That We Knew won the Book Club Award from the National Jewish Council, was named by O: The Oprah Magazine as one of the best books of fall 2019, and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Elizabeth Strout praised the book, “it opens up the world, the universe, in a way that it absolutely unique. By the end you may be weeping.”
Over the course of her long career, Hoffman’s novels have been recognized as notable books of the year by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, and People. Her books have been translated into more than 20 different languages, and her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, The Kenyon Review, Redbook, Architectural Digest, Gourmet, Premier, Self, and elsewhere. In her next novel, Magic Lessons slated for release in October 2020, she traces the roots of the family first introduced in the smash bestseller Practical Magic, telling the the story of Maria Owens in seventeenth-century Salem.
In her lectures, Hoffman discusses the art of storytelling, her influences, the experience of being a writer, and the role of libraries in her life.
Alice Hoffman was born in New York City and grew up on Long Island. She attended Adelphi University and received a master’s degree in creative writing from Stanford.