I couldn’t put this book down, curling up with hot chocolate and reading it in one sitting! One of Hoffman’s earlier books, it follows three generations of a family, from the strong Russian matriarch that has managed their lives and finances with an iron fist, to the grandaughter who longs for freedom and to follow her own path. Surrounded by a cast of characters who all live in in varying degrees of loneliness and longing, the entire family lives in an area of Long Island that they call the Compound.
The granddaughter, called Esther the Black, because of her dark hair, has just finished high school, and longs to get away, but she has been raised to be a wife, and has never learned how to be independant and has no job experience. She sometimes hates the cold, controlling nature of her Grandmother, Esther the White, whom she is named after. But things are changing, Esther the White is not well, and the riches that have sustained the family for so long are slowly slipping away.
Thrown into this mix is Phillip, son of Esther the White, father of Esther the Black. Ever since he was a little boy, he has longed for the water, attempting to drown himself every Summer, in the months that have come to be called The Drowning Season. His mother was a cold, distant figure in his life, and due to his and his wife, Rose’s, incompetence, she was also the woman who raised his daughter in the same fashion.
Esther the White has come to a point in her life where she wants to connect. While she feels it’s too late for her and her son, she plans to try to tell her life story to Esther the Black. It’s a strange and sad history, but will it bring them closer together?
A story of generations, of loneliness and being afraid to feel, it’s a fascinating and often humourous story.
Read It If: you love a story of love and family secrets, it’s un-put-down-able.