A Marriage of Opposites covers a lot of ground in one book. Readers see Rachel as she grows from an idealistic girl to a resigned young woman to a wife and mother who tries to balance the needs of her family and the desires of her own heart. Then the focus switches to her son as he defies convention in the same way that his mother did and decides to follow his dream of making art and going to Paris. Woven throughout are glimpses of what it means to have power and wealth and the dire consequences of not having those things. Rachel and her family are banned from their synagogue after she chooses to pursue a new relationship and her best friend Jestine has her heart irrevocably broken when people with more power and lighter skin take away the one she loves the most.
Although this book is about real people, the universal story here is about parents and children. Rachel dreamed for years about getting out from under her mother's oppressive control, but does the same thing to her own children without seeing the parallels. Camille bristles under his mother's direction, but his mother dreamed of Paris just as he does and fell in love with someone unsuitable just as he will.
I love Alice Hoffman. To date, she has written more than 30 novels and I will probably pick them all up at some point or another. As usual in Hoffman's writing, there is magic around the edges of a real story. In this case, Rachel is particularly attuned to the spirits of the island and perhaps, the spirits of ancestors in her Jewish community. While this is not my favorite Hoffman novel, it remains a testament to her ability to evoke a specific time and place. Some writers seem forced to stay in one time period, but Hoffman takes readers from 20th century NYC to the ancient fortress of Masada to the breathtaking island St. Thomas with equal skill.
The Marriage of Opposites
By Alice Hoffman
Simon and Schuster August 2015
Read via Netgalley