Best-selling author speaks at Stoller Center

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Nearly the entire freshman class packed into the Stoller auditorium on the night of Wednesday, Sept. 5 to welcome best-selling author Alice Hoffman, who penned “The River King.” The novel was required reading for all 24 sections of this year’s First Year Seminar classes, adhering to this year’s theme of social injustice. For all those who were unable to attend, a special screening of the visit was available Sunday night.

Hoffman focused on not just one book, but her journey through life as an author.

“I never expected to be a writer,” she started, “but I was a reader.”

Hoffman navigated her way through trials and triumphs in education before getting into a graduate school she’d never heard of: Stanford University. From there, she landed a publishing deal and when asked if she’d already written a novel, she told them “yes;” she began writing the moment she put down the phone and produced her first story in only six months.

Of “The River King Hoffman revealed deeper, personal connections: “I wrote it when I was going through cancer treatment; I dragged a mattress into my office and it was my life raft. I wanted to be in a different world and that world was Haddan, Mass.”

She based the story on her son’s experiences during his time at an elite prep school, where bullying was abundant and seemingly swept under the rug.

“It’s silence that allows bullies to function,” she said.

“It was interesting to see how her and her family handled it both on a personal level and a public one, too,” said freshman Rachel Mason. “It’s one thing to publicly stand up against bullying, but to write an entire novel devoted to the “what if’s” was a truly eye-opening experience.”

The session ended with a lengthy question-and-answer period, in which students were able to get answers to some of their most pressing questions, including the one on nearly everyone’s mind: “Who is the real River King?” Hoffman simply smiled and told us that the answer was truly up to us.

Author of “The River King,” Alice Hoffman, gave a reading in the Stoller Center on Sept. 5.

After the reading, Hoffman met with students and signed books.