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.
Venturing into 1660’s Boston through this book was more than just a time travel. Life, even a pampered life, was hard then, none of the modern conveniences we take for granted, such as central heating, running water, and plumbing. No supermarkets either. No automobiles. The population was small enough so that everyone knew everyone else’s business and gossip was the city’s favorite past time. People were ugly, unforgiving, judgmental. Women’s rights were nonexistent. Wives were considered to be an extension of their husbands, their child at best, in need of guidance and discipline to keep them on a heavenly path.
Our heroine, Mary Deerfield, who left her family home of privilege and wealth to marry a man far older than herself and without the means to keep her in the lifestyle she was accustomed to, finds herself unable to bear children, “barren,” and the victim of her husband’s creative cruelty which leaves her scarred and with a hunger for vengeance. She is not afraid of him, no, and asks the magistrates that a divorce be granted. She is refused and returned to her husband’s home where his abuse, physical, mental, and emotional, continues. But our heroine devises other means to satisfy her need for vengeance, to escape her loveless marriage, and to find happiness with the man she does love.
The characters in this novel, the townsfolk, are a provincial bunch, worse than a small town Facebook page spreading rumors, lies, and gossip shamelessly while piously sitting through church services for hours on Sunday, hypocrites all. It is this stream of venom that leads to Mary’s demise. It seems everyone else knows what’s being said about her but her. She is not nearly as tuned in to the party line as the rest of her neighbors. The book is interesting in that it seems not much has changed since the 1660’s, except perhaps the technology. In any era, people are the same: quick to judge, blame, gaslight, and throw someone else under the bus to save their own selves. With the town talk so pervasive it was fun trying to stay ahead of the story to figure out what happens next and whether or not Mary escapes her inevitable doom. It kept me on my toes. I read the 400 page book in two days.
Recommended for fans of richly researched historical fiction and women’s fiction told from a man’s point of view. This one will haunt you.
About the Author
CHRIS BOHJALIAN is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of twenty-two books, including The Red Lotus, Midwives, and The Flight Attendant, which is an HBO Max limited series starring Kaley Cuoco. His other books include The Guest Room; Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands; The Sandcastle Girls; Skeletons at the Feast;and The Double Bind. His novels Secrets of Eden, Midwives, and Past the Bleachers were made into movies, and his work has been translated into more than thirty-five languages. He is also a playwright (Wingspan and Midwives). He lives in Vermont and can be found at chrisbohjalian.com or on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Litsy, and Goodreads, @chrisbohjalian.