by Alice Hoffman, 2010
Reviewed by Donna Quattrone
Green Witch is the sequel to Green Angel, Hoffman’s spellbinding foray into the land of post-apocalyptic fairy tale. Both of these books detail a lyrical and deeply memorable exploration of love intertwined with loss, but either of the pair may be read on its own.
Green Witch begins one year after the cataclysmic event that reshaped Green’s life. She has finally taken off the outward trappings of mourning but her tattoos remain, a striking series of skin-inked stories blatantly fashioned in a land where books are forbidden. They are vivid reminders of her past, as equally enduring as the memories of family and friends that she has lost and the longing for the boy who has ventured off with half of her heart.
While the world struggles to rebuild itself from ashes, Green moves forward towards her seventeenth birthday. Her individual talents have defined the course of her new existence; she tends to her fecund garden, separates truth from lies and collects the tales of those in her surrounding community. Like Green, they have witnessed destruction, faced hardship and suffered grief. Some are content to wade in forgetfulness; others have fine-tuned the art of survival in a variety of interesting ways.
A handful of mysterious women have been labeled as witches, and speculation about their secret powers abound. Green sets off to seek them out, one by one, and proceeds to chronicle their tales on specially prepared handmade paper. Along with their words, the Enchanted also give Green mementos, simple treasures that are not without their own subtle magic. Each step in the collection process brings Green closer to her heart’s desire and, in the end, the greatest gift of all turns out to be the journey itself.
Part coming of age story and part quest tale, Hoffman’s narrative exhibits the classic fairy tale amalgamation of harsh reality, fragile hope, courage, perseverance and the triumphant possibility of happily ever after. This slim volume is structured in sections and each segment resonates with its own particular charm. More magical realism than fantasy, Green Witch charts the path upon which lives are rebuilt and love is rediscovered.
Hoffman’s talent for suggestive, multi-layered storytelling shines in this work; she crafts a thoroughly haunting tale in prose that is both deceptively simple and richly atmospheric. Matt Mahurin’s gorgeous artwork is the perfect accompaniment, it is both eloquent and evocative, and it completes the spell of this beautiful little gem of a book. Pick up a copy and prepare to be enchanted.