In Alice Hoffman's 10th novel Second Nature Robin Moore is a divorced woman living on an island with her 16-year-old son Connor. Nothing is going right in her job as a landscape artist. Everything she touches seems to die.
Then one day while visiting her brother Stuart, a psychiatrist in New York City, she sees a man shivering on a bench. Hearing his plea, "don't let them take me noplace," Robin impulsively snatches him out of the jaws of danger and takes him home with her. Stephen, called the Wolf Man in the hospital, was three-and-one-half years old when his parents died in a plane crash in the Michigan wilderness. He was raised by a pack of wolves. Although this former feral child still recalls running free with his four-footed brothers, he is intrigued by his new life with Robin and her son. They tell neighbors he is a foreign exchange student studying horticulture.
In the spirit of Alice Hoffman's other novels, Second Nature has the vivid textures of a mesmerizing dream. This author's adult fairy tales draw us into the moist magic of mystery, passion, fear, and dread. Here we encounter the wild as something more than dark, ferocious, and dangerous. Stephen is capable of romantic feeling and caring for others. In addition, the Wolf Man helps Robin and Connor get in touch with unopened rooms inside themselves.
There are several poetic scenes where Hoffman builds bridges to the animal kingdom and holds up a mirror so we can see our own bestial nature. In these scenes, a shiver of strangeness signals the startling originality of her writing. Second Nature is a remarkable novel.