Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Books I've Read: The Invisible Hour


If you know me, you know how much I love a good cult story.  Something about cults just fascinates me.  And I've loved Alice Hoffman's writing since her first book, Property Of, so finding that she has written a book abut a cult escapee was right up my alley. 

The book is kind of magic realism, with a touch of history in there too in that the main character, Mia, is fascinated with Nathaniel Hawthorne and The Scarlet Letter.  I haven't read The Scarlet Letter since high school and this book almost made me want to go and re-read it.  Almost...

The book starts with Mia leaving the cult she has been brought up in.  It's not portrayed as an absolutely terrible place where sexual abuse is rife, but the cult leader (Joel) doesn't allow books or reading or kids to have close relationships with their parents.  It's known as the Community and work and sharing is a core part of the belief system.  Mia's mother ended up there after falling pregnant to a high society Boston boy who wanted nothing to do with her or the baby and her father's fury that his daughter should find herself in such a tawdry predicament.

After her mother's death, Mia is determined to leave the Community.  She has been introduced to books and the library and longs for more than apple picking and child minding.  But before she can leave, Joel discovers her hidden books and punishes her by locking her into the barn before she is branded with a letter corresponding to her alleged crime.  She escapes to the library and is taken in by the librarian who smuggles her out of town to a friend's place.

Outside the Community Mia thrives, but Joel's shadow still falls on her life regularly.  Apple leaves show up in impossible places - the cult leader's quiet calling card - and Mia knows she is being followed. Only her love for Hawthorne and his book keeps her going and when, by some magical twist to the earth's fabric, she finds herself in Hawthorne's time, it is inevitable that they would fall in love.  But will her presence in his time alter the course of history and lead to the book that saved her life never being written?

I enjoyed this book.  The magical elements worked well and I enjoyed seeing Hawthorne brought to life.  I love that the power of reading is so celebrated in this book, and that books and writing are shown to be not just powerful, but magical too.

So I'd recommend this one, even if you're not a huge fan of magic.

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb:

The latest New York Times bestseller from beloved author Alice Hoffman celebrates the enduring magic of books and is a “wonderful story of love and growth” (Stephen King).

One June day when Mia Jacob can no longer see a way to survive, the power of words saves her. The Scarlet Letter was written almost two hundred years earlier, but it seems to tell the story of Mia’s mother, Ivy, and their life inside the Community—an oppressive cult in western Massachusetts where contact with the outside world is forbidden. But how could this be? How could Nathaniel Hawthorne have so perfectly captured the pain and loss that Mia carries inside her?

Through a journey of heartbreak, love, and time, Mia must abandon the rules she was raised with at the Community. As she does, she realizes that reading can transport you to other worlds or bring them to you, and that readers and writers affect one another in mysterious ways. She learns that time is more fluid than she can imagine, and that love is stronger than any chains that bind you.

As a girl Mia fell in love with a book. Now as a young woman she falls in love with a brilliant writer as she makes her way back in time. But what if Nathaniel Hawthorne never wrote The Scarlet Letter ? And what if Mia Jacob never found it on the day she planned to die?

1 comment:

  1. I like books with a touch of magical realism. I'll have to check this one out. Thanks.