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The Third Angel

angelofdeathAlice Hoffman has always been a favorite writer of mine.  Her prose is a delicious combination of stunningly visual scenes from nature against sometimes shattering personal experiences.  Magical realism is woven through the tapestry of all her stories, and The Third Angel carries on this tradition.  The tale in this case centers around three different women who have fallen in love with not only the wrong man, but a man so terribly wrong as to send their lives into a headlong tailspin, and take a few family members with them.  First, there is Madeleine Heller, who finds herself freakishly attracted to his sister’s fiance, then there is Frieda Lewis, who throws herself at a drug-attled rock star wanna-be, and lastly Bryn Evans, headed to her wedding, while at the same time already married to another man.  What is curious and genius about the book is in the telling: the story moves backwards.  We meet the first star-crossed lovers in London at an run-down hotel, and learn about a ghost haunting one of the upstairs rooms.  As that story winds down, we meet the mother of a character, who as a girl also worked in the same hotel, so we move backwards in time to learn more, until we finally come upon the central character of the whole novel, the twelve-year-old named Lucy green, who blames herself for the tragic event that happens at the hotel, spurred the hauntings, and launches her on a decades long search for the Third Angel–not the angel of death, or the angel of life, but the angel on earth who angellifecan renew her faith.  Overall, I enjoyed the book because of Hoffman’s lyrical writing, and the clever structure of the story, weaving time backwards with related characters who meet and become intertwined, but I did, however, grow tired–exhausted!–by the end of the novel from the endless stream of destructive and desperate people in the story– preternaturally beautiful and stunning blondes,  willfully self-destructive drug addicts, self-absorbed and vain men, who only wanted to satisfy their own desires.  So, Alice Hoffman, having brought me as a reader down this path of woe, unrequited love, longing, and death, I really wanted a bigger bang at the end.  No spoilers here, but I felt that the story ended with a sort of philosophical shrug at most, after opening the reader up for much more.


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