Beth Hoffman is a master at crafting a gentle story fierce with emotion. Her novels are comfort reads, and Looking for Me is no exception. It’s a work that defies categorization encompassing aspects of mystery, romance and literary fiction while maintaining a cozy distinctiveness that’s become a signature touch. Hoffman is a keen observer of life and her astute awareness of the world around her filters into her writing immersing the reader in detail that’s as multi-dimensional as it is visceral. Exquisite care is lovingly bestowed upon each word, exposing, bit by bit, a story brimming with heart.
In Teddi Overman, Hoffman radiates her inherent passion for antique restoration through her protagonist. Using her prior experience in interior design as a jumping off point, the author weaves a tale steeped in reclaimed beauty. Cigarette burns are removed from a walnut bureau. Tarnished silver is polished. The jammed drawers of a dresser are reopened. Centered around a theme of rebirth, the implied message is a belief in second chances. Retain hope, because it’s never too late.
This sentiment transfers nicely between the two main plot points – the unsolved disappearance of Teddi’s brother, Josh, and her burgeoning relationship with Sam Poteet. The thread of the teenage runaway runs throughout the book connecting Teddi’s childhood ties with the family farm in Kentucky to her adult life as a shop owner in the city of Charleston. Teddi struggles to make the transition, not feeling at home in either location. Pulled in two different directions, she learns how to let go of the past while acclimating herself to the future. It’s a hard lesson to learn but whenever she follows her instincts, fate has a way of placing the right people in her path at the opportune moment.
Hoffman keeps the romantic element out of the story until roughly the last quarter of the book. And it’s a refreshing change for a female character to be revealed by her compassionate interaction with her grandmother in a nursing home and her strained conversations with her mother rather than being defined by her reaction to a man. Yet Hoffman knows that her readers expect a love interest of some sort for Teddi, so she introduces him on her own time table, refusing to be shackled to outdated conventions. As a writer, she has the courage to set things in motion at her own pace, one that feels more authentically gratifying.
But the soul of the story resides as a testament to kindness. The title may be Looking for Me, but it can easily translate to: looking out for others. Whether it’s rising up to defend an abused dog or refusing to prosecute a shoplifter on the verge of Alzheimer’s, it’s all about taking an empathetic approach to life. The desire is to witness the good acts of others, and celebrate them – from the gift of a bird’s feather to a tray of cookies just out of the oven to the thumping tail of a beloved pooch. It’s the little things that matter, and Hoffman offers a heartwarming reminder on how it’s imperative to keep looking for them.