About «At Risk »
With this moving novel, Hoffman has written a story about a family attacked by tragedy, and has given it a larger relevance by confronting one of the most frightening issues of our times. The Farrells are a middle-class family living in a small New England town. Ivan Farrell is an astronomer, wife Polly a photographer, eight-year-old Charlie a budding biologist and 11-year-old Amanda a talented gymnast. Hoffman has few rivals in depicting domestic scenes: the bickering between siblings, the tension between spouses, and withal, the humor and love that holds families together. Suddenly the Farrells are singled out for grief. Amanda, who has been winning gymnastic meets despite a summer-long malaise, tests positive for AIDS, contracted some five years before when she was transfused with contaminated blood after an appendectomy. In unsensationalized detail, Hoffman depicts the effects of her illness. Too stunned, angry and anguished even to turn to each other, Polly and Ivan retreat into separate worlds. Charlie is abandoned by his best friend and shunned by his schoolmates. Amanda, an average adolescent who loves Madonna records, must come to grips with the process of dying. The hysterical reaction of some members of the community is a further blow. Hoffman's sensitive handling of this material is both matter of fact and heartbreaking. Ivan's friendship with a man he meets through the AIDS hotline, Polly's search for comfort with Amanda's pediatrician, Charlie's stoic bewilderment, Amanda's bond with a young woman who is a medium (the only evidence in this novel of Hoffman's characteristic feeling for the supernatural) are all beautifully portrayed.