Second Nature

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In SECOND NATURE, Alice Hoffman tells as inventive a story as she did in SEVENTH HEAVEN (1990) and TURTLE MOON (1992). Again, by inserting an alien element into a static society, she forces her characters to confront their world and themselves. This time the outsider is Stephen, who has been reared by wolves in the Michigan wilderness. Rescuing him from a Manhattan hospital, the tender-hearted Robin Moore takes Stephen to her nearby island home, where she conceals him until he is ready to enter local society.

Nevertheless, Robin underestimates the power of nature, which propels the two into a passionate love affair, while at the same time beckoning Stephen back to the wilderness. The very natural passion of jealousy also motivates Robin’s estranged husband Roy Moore, a police officer, to look for something in Stephen’s past which could discredit him. If he is found to be the missing “Wolf Man,” Stephen will lose his freedom. Still another threat comes from a member of one of the island’s most respected families, who commits a series of sadistic killings and casts the blame on Stephen. Here the weakness of civilization becomes evident. Only Stephen can catch the scent of blood on the murderer, and finally, only Stephen, applying the law of the pack, can punish him. Now much wiser, Roy ignores his own law in order to help Stephen escape from the island and begin his journey to Michigan. SECOND NATURE is a joy to read, convincing, exciting, and thought- provoking. In this novel, Hoffman again admits the power of evil but optimistically asserts that even within a corrupting civilization, good can prevail.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. XC, December 15, 1993, p. 723.

The Christian Science Monitor. March 14, 1994, p. 17.

Kirkus Reviews. LXI, December 1, 1993, p. 1480.

Library Journal. CXIX, February 1, 1994, p. 112.

Los Angeles Times. March 25, 1994, p. E6.

The New York Times Book Review. XCIX, February 6, 1994, p. 13.

The New Yorker. LXX, April 11, 1994, p. 99.

Publishers Weekly. CCXL, November 29, 1993, p. 53.

The Times Literary Supplement. March 25, 1994, p. 21.

The Washington Post Book World. XXIV, January 30, 1994, p. 2.