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The Invisible Hour

Alice Hoffman will have you under her spell in this Scarlet Letter retelling!

Mia has grown up in an oppressive cult. Books and communication with the outside world are forbidden. However, Mia is intrigued by the library in the nearby town and eventually finds her way in and learns the power of books. She falls in love with The Scarlet Letter, and the similarities to her cult cannot be ignored. Mia also discovers an ability to time travel. She ventures back 200 years and meets and falls in love with Nathaniel Hawthorne. But what happens if she changes the past and Nathaniel never writes The Scarlet Letter, the very book that saved her?

I have been a long-time Alice Hoffman fan. And while it was the first and final thirds of this book that worked best for me, the premise of this drew me right in. Hoffman is such a gifted writer and crafts spellbinding stories highlighting important issues, particularly those that affect women. She packed so much into this one, including several feminist themes and the power and life-changing importance of books and literacy.

Like all of Hoffman's books, the female characters in this are captivating and memorable. Mia is such a strong female MC and a survivor, and I rooted for her the whole way through. Another character I loved was Nathaniel's sister, Elizabeth. Her depiction here is so well-done that I became curious about her and researched the fascinating real-life woman.

This book is also a love letter to books, libraries, and readers. Not only does an iconic book play a pivotal role, but so does the author who wrote it. I loved the literary references, Nathaniel Hawthorne's appearance, and the magical realism that made it so powerful in the story. You don't need to have read The Scarlet Letter to enjoy this. Either way, it is poignant and thought-provoking and celebrates the life-changing power of books.

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for the opportunity to review this ARC. I enjoyed it!

My steep was Pomme D'Amour from Mariage Freres. This black tea flavored with caramelized apple and maraschino is one of my faves late Summer into Fall.


From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage of Opposites and the Practical Magic series comes an enchanting novel about love, heartbreak, self-discovery, and the enduring magic of books.

One brilliant 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, and books are considered evil. 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?

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote: "A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities."

This is the story of one woman's dream. For a little while it came true.

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