Picks and Pans Review: Here on Earth

updated 10/20/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/20/1997 01:00AM

by Alice Hoffman

When March Murray travels from Northern California to her childhood home in Massachusetts, she tells herself—and her husband, Richard Cooper—that her purpose in going is to attend the funeral of the beloved housekeeper who raised her after her mother died when March was very young. But readers of Here. on Earth will rapidly intuit that the real reason for March's return is her insatiable longing for her first love, Hollis—and that, in her 12th novel, Alice Hoffman has written a sly, intensely romantic update of Emily Bronte's classic 19th-century novel Wuthering Heights.

Like Bronte, Hoffman evokes a stormy landscape, a troubled and secretive clan, a mysterious orphan, a volatile chemistry of passion and social class, and a cyclonic affair that threatens everything in its path. Interlocking subplots involving March's teenage daughter, her reclusive brother, her best friend—and a revelation about her late housekeeper—dovetail as the novel nears its dramatic conclusion, an ending that may alter our view of the dark, brooding Heathcliff as we revisit him (incarnated here as Hollis) in the revealing light of our 20th-century ideas about men and women. (Putnam, $23.95)

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