Seventh Heaven by Alice Hoffman

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On Hemlock Street, in a small town on Long Island in the year 1959, all the houses looked the same.  In fact, even those that lived inside those identical model homes had difficulty finding their own because the streets all looked the same.  The mothers were all homemakers and shared recipes and gossip, the fathers all worked and bonded in the hardware store, and the children all fell asleep to the sounds of the Southern State Highway.  So when Nora Silk, divorced and juggling multiple jobs with the care of her 2 young sons, moved onto the street, she could not have appeared more different from the others.  It was only after time, acts of tragedy and kindness, and the communal realization that no one has a perfect family, that Nora was able to work her way into the hearts of the families on the street.

The first thing I loved about this book was the capturing of an iconic generation and its details.  The description of suburban life in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s is perfect – from the clothes to the foods to the very way of thinking at the time.  It was a simpler time but still fraught with normal human experience, both sweet and sad.  I am dating myself by saying that I could relate.

The story, as it very subtly unwinds, though, is really about bullying in its many forms.  Whether it is adults who are unfriendly to someone who they judge to be different, or kids who pick on the awkward new boy, or teenage boys who treat a “loose” girl like she doesn’t matter, the story revolves around the evil that comes from judging others and acting mean.  Some learn their lessons while others just run away.  But ultimately, kindness rules.

This is a beautiful, real-life story that will very gradually and quietly warm your heart.

 

 

 

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