At Risk by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book Overveiw from Publishers Weekly:
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. 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. 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 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.
For such a sad subject, Ms. Hoffman handles it with lovely writing. The characters are portrayed in a realistic manner and my heart ached for each of the Farrell family as their lives changed due to Amanda’s diagnosis. Ivan attaches himself to a young man with AIDS who works an AIDS help hotline. Polly and Amanda’s doctor link together as they support each other. Amanda connects with a young woman in the community who allows her to speak honestly about her fears. And poor little Charlie, somewhat left on his own until his family finally remembers that this impacts him too.
This book was first published in 1988, at the height of the AIDS panic. It was interesting to see how it was written for the times. I would certainly like to think humanity has made great strides in dealing with AIDS diagnosis and AIDS in the community.
I was very concerned how the story would end given the prognosis for AIDS at that time. I don’t want to give it away. While no miracle happen, I do feel the author handled the ending gracefully.
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