Here on Earth

by Alice Hoffman

Hardcover, 1997

Call number




Putnam Adult (1997), Edition: First Edition, 293 pages


March Murray, along with her fifteen-year-old daughter, Gwen, returns to the small Massachusetts town where she grew up to attend the funeral of Judith Dale, the beloved housekeeper who raised her. After nearly twenty years of living in California, March is thrust into the world of her past. She finds that Mrs. Dale knew more of life than March could have ever suspected; that her brother Alan, whose tragic history has left him grief-stricken, has turned to alcohol as his only solace; and that Hollis, the boy she once loved, is the man she can't seem to stay away from. Here on Earth is the dramatic and lyrical account of the joys of love, as well as the destruction that love can release. Erotic, disturbing, and compelling, this is without a doubt Alice Hoffman's most unforgettable novel. "[Hoffman is] a dreamy and mesmerizing storyteller," - The New Yorker… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member BraveNewBks
This book suckered me a little, but I respect it for doing so. Most times when someone reconnects with their first love in a book, you can't help rooting for that love to triumph. Here, that's exactly what happened-- March and Hollis were young and devoted to each other, but he left town to make
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his fortune and she eventually gave up waiting on him. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and when March comes back to town for a funeral, she and Hollis reconnect. At first it's very much the lovey-dovey kind of thing I expected from a story about a reunion of first loves, but then Alice Hoffman does what she does best: she uses heartbreakingly beautiful descriptors to paint a world that's dark and even a little grim, but one from which you can't tear your eyes away.
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LibraryThing member mana_tominaga
March Murray returns to her hometown with her daugher Gwen, to attend a funeral of her housekeeper. She becomes involved again with her childhood lover, entering into a lifeless, destructive romance. The emotional whirlwind of her all-consuming love evokes Wuthering Heights.
LibraryThing member Stevejm51
I just wanted to shake some sense into March. Why did she love Hollis? I couldn't wait to be finished with this book so I could quit reading about all these dysfuntional characters.
LibraryThing member carmarie
This is my favorite Alice Hoffman book! The twist she places in the plot is astounding and heartbreaking. Hoffman has an elegant darkness to her that I find present in most of her works.
LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
Beautifully written, this novel is about a collision of past and present, with the one woman in the center of the novel having been stuck between them for some twenty years, not moving in either direction...until now. Her drama encompasses that of the lives of her daughter and others, and Hoffman
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paints full portraits of the unique individuals at the center of the novel, bringing a unique flavor to what might otherwise be a more straightforwrad drama. Her incorporations of animals and of landscape are also flawless, making a small town come to more realistic breath than in many other works that specialize more in the small town's charicature.

Simply, the work is one which makes you forget you're reading a novel--at times, the heartbreak and humor here are far too real, and the characters far too sympathetic. Highly recommended for any readers of drama. While this book doesn't veer into the moments of magical realism that bring together my favorite Hoffman works, this will remain one of my favorites of her work, and is the first 300 page book in agest that I've read in a single day.
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LibraryThing member juniperSun
An enjoyable read even tho my opinion about this book kept changing. At first, I noticed the imagery, and enjoyed the way she describes things: "so many orchards circled the village that on some crisp October afternoons the whole world smelled like pie" (p 4), "The sky is so flat and gray Gwen has
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the urge to put her arms over her head for protection, just in case stones should begin to fall from the clouds." (p40)
The focus of the novel shifts a good way in, and I begin to think we're just being given a standard romance plot and I'm disappointed that I won't learn anything from this book. And after a bit the emotional tone changes, becomes more obsessed, and I'm sure I can see where we'll end up, agreeing with another reviewer about being disgusted by the dysfunction. However, one of the characters has more strength than I gave her credit for, and the ending is not what I expected. The book is divided into 3 parts, which somewhat mesh with the shifts I noticed, but not precisely since the story is a smooth progression, so there is a gradual introduction of the shift before the next part. What with the imagery and the ending, I'm happy that I stuck it out. There really are some insights gained by the characters.
I was pretty bothered by not being able to figure out for quite a long while the when and where of the setting. There is a mix of time, beginning with March as a mother of a teen and frequently jumping us back to her own teen years. Her description of the village seems so old-fashioned, almost 1930's, which would make "now" 1950's or '60s but her daughter Gwen has such a modern tone of voice. I wonder if that just shows the universality of teen resentment of parents? Her clothes & hairstyle seems too modern but there is no mention of ubiquitous cell phones or computers. I finally decide "now" is 1990's when an adult buys a computer. That would make "then" 1965, however, and I still can't figure out how the village social services are run by "the library board" or how orphaned kids can be taken into a home without a lot of Social Service oversight and inspection. And where? Hoffman doesn't write dialect. Obviously east coast, since there are tidal marshes. Because I get a flash of Beans of Egypt Maine, I guess Maine for the setting, as likely being the most different in village structure and the most "keep your nose out of others' business", but it doesn't seem cold enough. The presence of race horses makes me guess Virginia,perhaps the islands, but midway thru we are told New England.
I also had quibbles with some of her statements but wasn't sure my grasp of facts was all that accurate: spring peepers calling in August (p 20), the horses that were "worth more money than her father would ever manage to earn" (p 27). Later we are told how much a horse can be worth, and I see this could have been a true statement for a teen.
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LibraryThing member kbig
One of my all time favorite books. She writes teenage angst better than any other author I've read. The story is gripping and tells about first love just like it is.
LibraryThing member StoutHearted
Horrible novel- how'd it make it on Oprah's list? Hoffman spent so much time trying to align the plot to "Wuthering Heights" that she forgot to be original and make the story her own. The result is a perversion of Emily Bronte's tale that completely misses the point.

March travels back to her
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hometown with her teen daughter Gwen for the funeral of her Nelly Dean-esque housekeeper. There, she meets up with Hollis, her childhood love that got away. The renew their love, but Hollis is bent on revenge and abuses her physically, emotionally, and sexually. Meanwhile Gwen finds romance with her Hareton, and all find themselves caught in Hollis' sick trap. There is no redemption for any of the characters; the survivors are only lucky to have escaped -- a denouement with the character development worthy of a Vincent Price film.

Hoffman just doesn't get it- what makes the reader fall for Heathcliff despite his tyrannical ways is his undying passion for Catherine. He can abuse Isabella and trap young Catherine Linton into a loveless marriage, but the sheer force of his passion for his Catherine blows it all away. Hollis has no such passion for March. He is only fueled on revenge. Besides the physical abuse, Hollis cheats on March once he has her, completely disregarding any notion that Hollis may actually love or feel passion for March. Hoffman seems to have confused passion with rape. Their romantic scenes read like the worse bodice ripper. To complete the characterization of Hollis, Hoffman should have given him a long Snidely Whiplash mustache to twirl.

Instead of spending so much time trying to get the characters to fit their "Wuthering Heights" mold so closely, Hoffman should have instead used the novel as a guide for exploring the relationships in her story. A more talented author could have made the distinction between healthy love and obsessive love without playing a game of "How perverted can I make this guy?" In fact, a more talented author did, and Hoffman was way over her head meddling with Bronte. As is, her treatment of March, and March's acceptance of it, is downright misogynistic and Hoffman should have known better, as should have Oprah.
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LibraryThing member madamejeanie
True love may be made in Heaven, but learning how to live with it and
through it can sometimes be altogether different, here on earth. After
nineteen years in California March Murray and her teenaged daughter, Gwen,
come back to Fox Hill where March grew up, to see to the estate of the woman
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raised March. March has spent a lifetime trying to avoid and deny her
past, but coming home brings it all back into sharp focus. She confronts
the stranger that her brother has become, the whispers of rumors that run
through town, and Hollis, the boy she fell in love with when she was eleven
years old, and never really stopped waiting for. This is the story,
skillfully and subtly told, of what can happen when you finally get
everything you thought you ever wanted. It is a story of jealousy and
deceit, decay and degradation, courage and pain, woven by a master
storyteller. It unfolds as delicately and as slowly as the petals of a
rose, mesmerizing the reader to the point that you really don't notice the
thorns until it's too late to pull back.

Another excellent novel by Alice Hoffman.
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LibraryThing member Staciele
This book was our book club read. Our group was divided with a few loving it and the rest thinking it was just ok. I was one of the few who loved it. Alice Hoffman's writing draws you in from the very first page. She writes in a way that she can describe a scene without saying the words. It is easy
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to see why she is one of author, Jodi Picoult's favorite writers. You can truly escape in her stories. Even though this story was depressing, sad, dark, cryptic, and frankly, without much hope for the characters, I still was riveted until the very last page. I could feel myself being drawn into the characters so much that when they were scared, I could feel my own chest tightening. Hoffman describes the feelings of power and control so well, from both perspectives, you can feel yourself right in the situation.
I had so many pages and quotes marked from this book, I just want to share a few with you:

"Is this how fates are made and futures cast? An idle choice, a windy day, a dog that can't mind his own business? Some people know the exact moment they lost everything. They can look back and see it plain as day and for the life of them can't understand why they didn't spot the situation as it was happening."

"Among men and women, those in love do not always announce themselves, with declarations and vows. but they are the ones who weep when you're gone. Who miss you every single night, especially when the sky is so deep and beautiful, and the ground so very cold."

"All over town tonight, the wind will drive women from their beds. They'll think of their first true love and search through their jewelry boxes for trinkets - gold lockets, ticket stubs, strands of hair. March would be one of those women, but instead she's here, on the road where there were once so many foxes. If truth be told, she's been here all this time, in their dark and windy place, like a ghost trapped inside the location of her memory."

Even though this book dealt with circumstances that most people would find sick or disgraceful, I found the story to be very believable. The subject matters were haunting and even though you didn't want to think about what you were reading, you couldn't stop turning the pages. I am curious to read other Hoffman novels and see more of her writings. I also realize this story isn't for everyone.
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LibraryThing member tmbcoughlin
The book is somber and dark. With the exception of Hank, and even he reaches some of my limits, I really don't like the characters. Each character has an element where you may want to have compassion but it is all taken away by the balance of their character.
LibraryThing member milk_toast
Alice Hoffman is a wonderful story teller, however, I felt this book contained too many references to the town's local lore and felt almost supernatural in a totally realistic story. The beginning was slow going, as was the ending. I felt the ending was short and last minute, like Hoffman was
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grasping for closure for March and Hollis.
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LibraryThing member ljpower
Hoffman's story is full of dark surprises. March and Hollis and their obsession with each other took what I expected to be a pleasant tale into a very dark place. I had difficulty placing myself in March's position, as she abandoned her entire family to chase a man who held such little regard for
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her. March's brother Allen is also a tortured character but had the chance to show some redeeming qualities through his niece, Gwen I was waiting for the happy ending that didn't happen.
Hoffman has an interesting writing style and her use of time and place add to the story. This is my second Hoffman book and I am looking forward to reading a few more.
Don't read this book if you are looking for a story that has all the loose ends tied up in a nice neat bow. Rather, enjoy this book for an eye-opening look at how easy it is to survive a dysfunctional relationship.
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LibraryThing member sdunford
Hard to put down - not as good as her more atmospheric novels but still excellent
LibraryThing member rainbooklady
classic take on the weathering heights theme, beautiful and haunting story of obsesive love. loyalty and obsesion rock these characters they love eachother to fault passionatly madly deeply crazy what would you sacrifice for your first love what have'nt you sacrificed for your first love.sometimes
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love can be so blinding you cannot see what is in front of your face.beautifully and magically written like only Alice Hoffman can do
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LibraryThing member Sandra305
A friend loaned me this book as I usually love Oprah's Book Club selections, but I was disappointed with this selection Everything seemed too superficial and stereotypical and I wasn't really able to identify with any of the characters. Even the plotting seemed superficial and contrived, and I was
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actually relieved when I got to the last page and could close the book.
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LibraryThing member CasaBooks
My first Alice Hoffman and will wait to get thru some other authors and books before I pick up some of her others. I didn't dislike it, but maybe it was a bit darker than I like.
I'm a pansy for any author who can get published and have a lot of people like their books.
I'll read them and always find
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some good things to absorb.
Read in 2004
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LibraryThing member klarsenmd
This dark tale of love is depressing and yet still full of the beautiful, whimsical prose I have come to associate with Alice Hoffman. Not my favorite by her, but enchanting in it's own way.
LibraryThing member nyiper
I agree with some of the earlier reviewers---March seemed so overwhelmed with a man she really did not know at all, based on her memories of her much younger self, and yet he was not at all the same and she simply could not see it. The ending seemed as though the man in the picture was finally
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overwhelmed with himself and yet I found myself wanting to know what happened to all of them in the next few years. I listened to the audio version and it was absorbing but I wanted more at the end---too many question marks.
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LibraryThing member thatotter
Deeply horrible, with unrealistic, unlikeable characters. Wuthering Heights has never been my favorite Brontë novel, but seeing how badly this knock-off failed has filled me with new appreciation for the original.
LibraryThing member Angelina-Justice
I read this book years ago and it has stayed with me. It is a modern Wuthering Heights story. I love all of Alice Hoffman's books, but this one has stayed with me the most. She captures the dark intensity of emotions that so many people are afraid to acknowledge and explore. I'd love to do an adult
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book discussion some day comparing and contrasting this book and Bronte's Wuthering Heights.
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LibraryThing member wareagle78
A well-written story about love and obsession. March Murray returns for the funeral of the woman who raised her, and finds again the love of her youth. Hollis, who was raised in March's home, has been waiting for her return, for the one thing he never found. The story of Hollis and March, and of
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March's daughter Gwen, the story of how love in a small town changes them irrevocably, is excellent reading.

Hoffman's characterizations are believable, but a large part of what I enjoyed about the story was the descriptions of the Massachusetts town and countryside as the seasons progressed. Hoffman can really make a picture come to life with her words.
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LibraryThing member LauraT81
When I found out that Here on Earth was inspired by Wuthering Heights, I knew I had to read it. Most of the novels I've read by Hoffman have been really enjoyable, and Here on Earth didn't disappoint. Often, retellings are just modern versions of the same exact story that follows the same plot.
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What this story does, while retaining many similarities to Wuthering Heights, is maintain originality. The plot doesn't run parallel with the classic, which I really appreciated.

I enjoyed the characters, even though I wanted to smack a few of them. I found Hollis, the Heathcliff-inspired character, to be even more of a villain, yet March was definitely more subdued than Cathy. At first, I wondered if the passion would be subdued as well, but found it to be dark and destructively passionate as its muse.
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LibraryThing member nivramkoorb
I have heard a lot of good things about Alice Hoffman so I picked this book up at a book sale. I was very disappointed. This might be the lowest I have ever rated a book. I thought I had an obligation to advise people to stay away from this book. Of course I really doubt I would ever pick up an
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Alice Hoffman book again. Her characters make no sense and are not at all believable. The portrayal of a small town in New England where everybody knows everyone else is a cliche. The only reason I gave it 2 stars was because it held my interest and I was hoping that the ending would be somewhat creative but it wasn't. Obviously those that gave it 5 stars must have a whole different taste in book genres than I do.
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LibraryThing member bookworm_naida
Here on Earth is one of those books that I enjoyed reading but disliked most of the characters within the story. It is also reminiscent of Bronte's Wuthering Heights.

March Murray returns to her hometown in New England with her fifteen year old daughter Gwen. Her childhood housekeeper and nanny
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Judith, has passed away and March comes back to her hometown for the funeral and to get Judith's affairs in order. March's scientist husband Richard, who is from the same hometown, stays behind in California unable to come on the trip due to his work.
When she arrives at her childhood home, old memories resurface and March begins to think about her first love, Hollis. She wonders if she will see him again now that she is back in town.

As a child, Hollis was rescued by March's father and brought to live with her family. Hollis was destitute and March's family became his own. However, Hollis was always withdrawn and sullen, only getting along with March and her father and becoming enemies with March's bother, Alan. As time passes, Hollis and March fall in love.

Jealously and resentment mostly on Hollis' part, broke the two up when March was just eighteen and Hollis ended up leaving town with no word on his whereabouts. He left March depressed and heartbroken, often staring out her bedroom window in hopes of seeing Hollis return. The two never forgot each other. Three years later, Hollis returns to town a wealthy man, but March has already married Richard and moved to California. Hollis winds up marrying Richard's sister.
Does it remind you of Wuthering Heights yet?

Now that March is back in town she is desperate to see Hollis. And when she does, old flames reignite and the two are once again inseperable.

Like I said I enjoyed reading Here on Earth. It's got an interesting storyline, and Hoffman's writing is lyrical as usual. The sleepy town in New England almost has a haunting air about it, especially when the author describes the woods and the towns history.

On the other hand, I couldn't help but be judgemental with the characters choices and thought processes. Hollis, modeled after Heathcliff, was too selfish and sulky for my taste, plus a tad disturbed. He was also very 'full of himself', always expecting March to come looking for him.

Another thing is the infidelity within the storyline. The book mostly centers around March's being unfaithful to her husband. I kept wondering if she had completely lost her mind. At one point she even admits that all she cares about is Hollis and nothing else, not even her family. I wonder why Hoffman set out to create these unlikeable main characters? She obviously modeled these people after Catherine and Heathcliff, but when I read Wuthering Heights I didn't dislike them. March and Hollis, on the other hand...
I do think this book would make a great book club selection, there's plenty to discuss within the storyline.

In the midst of all these screwed up relationships and unlikeable characters, Hoffman's writing had me glued to the page.
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