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Book Review of “At Risk” by Alice Hoffman

Hello everyone! I hope all is well with you. This is my first blog post after chemo and I must say I’m feeling much better. My hair is coming in along with my eyebrows and eyelashes. I’m starting to look human again! Whoo Hoo! J  Sorry. It just feels so good to feel good.

For my first post since chemo, I thought it would be appropriate to do a book review for you. I came across this author while I was recovering and as I gained some energy, I devoured three or four of her books. The first book I read is, “At Risk” and the cover and blurb are below.

The bestselling inspirational story of one family coming to terms with unspeakable tragedy and immeasurable love

In a lovely old house near the coast of Massachusetts, the Farrells go through the routines of a typical August morning. Eight-year-old Charlie, a junior biologist and dinosaur expert, tries to collect another one of his insect specimens. His sister, Amanda, a talented gymnast who at eleven years old is already saving her money to try out for the Olympic team, prepares for her last meet of the summer. Ivan, their absent-minded father, is involved with his work as an astronomer. Out in the garden, Ivan’s wife, Polly, wonders how she can trick her children into eating more zucchini.

They are a family as unique and ordinary as any other, but their world will soon be shattered when Amanda is diagnosed with AIDS. In an instant, everything that gave their lives meaning is ripped away, and the intimacy that once came so naturally vanishes. Too overcome with grief to turn to each other, Ivan and Polly seek solace elsewhere. Charlie is abandoned by his best friend and, for long stretches at a time, forgotten by his parents. Amanda, who holds on to her dreams so tightly, must somehow find a way to let go.

Torn apart by the prospect of their loss, Polly, Ivan, and Charlie must find the courage to come back together again—for Amanda’s sake and for their own. At Risk is an exquisite book about true sorrow and even truer devotion.

My Thoughts:

This book was beautifully written and incredibly heart wrenching. It tells the tale of Amanda a gifted gymnast who has high aspirations for herself. She’s fifteen years old and on the cusp of adulthood when she learns she has Aids. She contracted the disease through a blood transfusion when she had an appendectomy a few years ago.

“At Risk” is a realistic depiction of what a family goes through when one of their members is diagnosed with an incurable disease. Alice Hoffman pulls you in with the first few paragraphs and doesn’t entirely let you go at the end. It illustrates how Amanda’s disease effects each family member and how they fall apart while at the same time come together as the disease slowly obliterates Amanda’s immune system.

I was quite emotional when I finished this story. I’m sure some of it had to do with the fact that I had just finished chemo. Even though I’m recovering and will be back to old self soon, this story definitely touched a nerve and makes the reader realize what’s important in life. I highly recommend this story.