[Book Review] The Promise of the Pelican by Roy Hoffman

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By Roy Hoffman

Hank Weinberg, an octogenarian and survivor of the Shoah, is adjusting to new roles in life, after retiring from his law practice. That of widower and ‘Gradee’, grandfather. He suddenly finds himself in the role of primary caretaker to his grandson, with the help of his Honduran babysitter, Lupita, when his daughter lands herself in court-ordered rehab after her second DWI. A modern-day Atticus Fitch, Hank comes out of retirement to defend Lupita’s brother, Julio, who is identified as a suspect by a witness to the murder of a prominent member of the Mobile Bay community.

Hoffman brilliantly crafts a novel that is so much more than a crime drama. This story explores generational trauma from two angles. The first, from Hank Weinberg, who as a child, was secreted out of Amsterdam, to the United States, where he was adopted and raised in southern Alabama. While still a young child, Hank is shaped by being rounded up, by the Nazis, with his family, and losing his parents, brother, and sister. He is the sole survivor of the Holocaust out of his family of five. This experience clearly shapes his relationship with his daughter, who as an adult, struggles with addiction leading to the breakup of her marriage.

The second is from the perspective of Lupita and Julio, who immigrated to the United States from Honduras, escaping extreme poverty, political turmoil, and gang violence. The sister and brother were urged to leave, in search of a better life, by their mother. Both continue to provide her with financial support but are unable to return to their homeland.

The story also explores civil rights and racial prejudice as Julio is painted as an illegal immigrant from Mexico. Hoffman’s narrative is a contemporary nod to the Harper Lee classic, To Kill A Mockingbird, as Hank’s empathy for a marginalized young man overrules his own self-doubt.

The ending, which I promise not to spoil, is beautifully moving. I truly could not put this book down. The Promise of the Pelican is easily the front runner for the number one spot on my Top Ten list this year.

I’d like to thank the author, Roy Hoffman, for the free advanced reader copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

About the Author

Roy Hoffman

Roy Hoffman is author of the novels, “The Promise of the Pelican,” forthcoming March 2022, a literary crime novel of social justice in the Deep South, “Come Landfall,” a story of hurricanes and war, “Chicken Dreaming Corn,” endorsed by Harper Lee, about Romanian Jewish immigrants to the Deep South, and “Almost Family,” in a 35th Anniversary Edition, about a Black family and a Jewish family in Alabama. He’s author of two nonfiction books: “Back Home,” and “Alabama Afternoons.” A native of Mobile, Ala., Roy worked as a writer in New York for 20 years before returning south.

He’s written for the New York Times, Wall St. Journal and Washington Post, covered features for the Mobile newspaper, and received the Lillian Smith Award in fiction and Clarence Cason Award in nonfiction. A graduate of Tulane, he’s on the low-residency MFA faculty of Spalding University’s School Writing. http://www.royhoffmanwriter.com, @roybhoffman, http://www.facebook.com/royhoffmanwriter

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