Seventh Heaven (1990)

by Alice Hoffman

In Seventh Heaven Alice Hoffman expertly weaves together the stories of multiple characters to create a realistic portrait of suburbia as the conforming 1950s gave way to the restive 1960s.

A single mother and her two sons move into a six-year-old Long Island neighborhood where all the houses are identical. Without intending to, Nora Silk stirs up the carefully regulated lives on Hemlock Street just because of who she is — divorced, fashionable, a woman who works because she has to, an irregular housekeeper and parent. At first Nora is gossiped about and ostracized, and her awkward eight-year-old son, Billy, is bullied. As time goes on, however, Nora’s neighbors, both the parents and the children, feel discontented. A husband can’t escape his sexual fantasies, teenage boys assault a high school classmate, a mother abandons her family, another marriage breaks apart. Just as Nora’s presence had disturbed the neighborhood, she becomes an instrument of healing for some. The residents of Hemlock Street do not return to the constricted facade of the past but accept lives that are both imperfect and more honest.


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