I have some very good reasons for logging all the titles I read in Goodreads, and in blogging about books. Because sometimes I read so many books it’s easy to forget what I’ve read. I was scrolling through new titles to add to my library hold list recently when I came across a new book by Chris Bohjalian (one of my favorites!!), The Red Lotus. So of course I immediately added it my hold list and was so excited.
Until I looked at Goodreads and realized I did read it. And it was good! And it wasn’t that it wasn’t a memorable book. Once I remembered, it all came flooding back about what an amazing book it actually was. Just not new to me. And I’m a dingbat. There are things that I just can’t remember now and I’m only 40. What’s going to happen by the time I’m 60?
But luckily, I did have a Bohjalian title waiting on my Netgalley shelf- Hour of the Witch.
From the Publisher:
A Read It Forward Most Anticipated Book of 2021
A young Puritan woman–faithful, resourceful, but afraid of the demons that dog her soul–plots her escape from a violent marriage in this riveting and propulsive novel of historical suspense from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Flight Attendant.
Boston, 1662. Mary Deerfield is twenty-four-years-old. Her skin is porcelain, her eyes delft blue, and in England she might have had many suitors. But here in the New World, amid this community of saints, Mary is the second wife of Thomas Deerfield, a man as cruel as he is powerful. When Thomas, prone to drunken rage, drives a three-tined fork into the back of Mary’s hand, she resolves that she must divorce him to save her life. But in a world where every neighbor is watching for signs of the devil, a woman like Mary–a woman who harbors secret desires and finds it difficult to tolerate the brazen hypocrisy of so many men in the colony–soon becomes herself the object of suspicion and rumor. When tainted objects are discovered buried in Mary’s garden, when a boy she has treated with herbs and simples dies, and when their servant girl runs screaming in fright from her home, Mary must fight to not only escape her marriage, but also the gallows. A twisting, tightly plotted novel of historical suspense from one of our greatest storytellers, Hour of the Witch is a timely and terrifying story of socially sanctioned brutality and the original American witch hunt.
Imagine being 24 years old and having people think you’re a witch because you can’t get pregnant. Crazy right? But probably not, I mean, it was the 1600s. Mary, our protagonist is married to Thomas, a well-to-do widow with a daughter right about the same age as Mary. Clearly, his young bride was supposed to produce more children. But it’s just not happening. And more than anything, Mary wants a child.
She’s good friends with Thomas’s daughter, who has a child and is on her way to producing a second one. What a time it must have been to live in. That if you are barren, you are clearly a witch, or interested in tempting men whose wives have had children and have lost their figure. Nevermind that all of these men are insufferable assholes.
But Mary tries to appear as the good wife, slogging through life, dealing with her emotionally abusive husband. Until one day, when he stabs her through the hand with a fork and it’s clear she needs to get out of her marriage. But what’s worse that being barren? Oh, that’s right. It’s worse to want to divorce your husband.
Hour of the Witch is a fascinating work of historical fiction that seriously made me feel trapped just reading it. A good writer can always make the reader deeply related to his characters. And while I appreciate that, I was seriously feeling for Mary throughout this book! It’s so crazy to think that there was a time that if you didn’t someone, you could just make up a crazy tale about them and it was handled.
I highly recommend Hour of the Witch to fans of Bohjahlian and lovers of historical fiction. Special thanks to Netgalley and Doubleday Books for an advanced e-galley in exchange for my honest review. This one is out May 4! Get your copy.