Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman

survival lessons

  • Title:  Survival Lessons
  • Author:  Alice Hoffman
  • Genre:  Memoir; Inspirational
  • Published:  October 2013 – Algonquin Books
  • Source:  Purchased

Book flap synopsis:  Survival Lessons provides a road map of how to reclaim your life from this day forward, with ways to reenvision everything – from relationships with friends and family to the way you see yourself. 

As Alice Hoffman says,

In many ways I wrote Survival Lessons to remind myself of the beauty of life, something that’s all too easy to overlook during the crisis of illness or loss. I forgot that our lives are made up of equal parts of sorrow and joy, and that it is impossible to have one without the other. I wrote to remind myself that despite everything that was happening to me, there were still choices I could make.

Wise, gentle, and wry, Alice Hoffman teaches all of us how to choose what matters most.

My take:  For someone in good health who doesn’t have a loved one dealing with a catastrophic illness this slim book could be read in an hour or less. The chapters are short and to-the-point, filled with kernels of wisdom, common sense and advice from one who has survived cancer. I imagine a reader living with cancer would appreciate and take comfort from Alice Hoffman’s experience. Her style is honest and heart-felt. Hoffman included a couple of recipes as well as the directions for knitting a hat. She made the point to enjoy eating when you can and even learn something new – like knitting. I’m glad I read Survival Lessons and I know I will read it again at some point. It’s one I’d give to a friend. It would be a good book for a reader whose loved one has cancer.

Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman

Back of the book: John is cool, practical, and deliberate – the polar opposite of dreamy Arlyn – yet the two are drawn powerfully together even when it is clear they are bound to bring each other grief. Their marriage traces a map no one should follow, leading them and their children to a house made of glass in the Connecticut countryside, to the avenues of Manhattan, and to the blue waters of Long Island Sound. Glass breaks, love hurts, and, like all families, John and Arlyn’s makes its own rules. Ultimately, it falls to their grandson, Will, to walk a path of ruin and redemption in order to solve the emotional puzzle of his family.
Skylight Confessions is a novel full of symbolism that portrays a family so stuck in their situation they can’t see more than one way out. Arlyn and John know they probably weren’t meant for each other but don’t try to change the fact. Children feel the effect of that kind of union. Some more than others and that is how it is for the Moody children. We follow this family to different ends, some excruciatingly painful and sad. Why read this book? Well, there is a final message of hope – that you can change your situation in life if you want it badly enough.

This was not an easy book to read – meaning the lives of the children were so emotionally difficult. Hoffman’s pace is fast and her writing is very smooth so the actual reading is easy – it’s just that I had a tough time with how one of the children dealt with his life.