The Invisible Hour: A Novel
AAs a lifelong Alice Hoffman fan and an English teacher, I was wildly excited for her latest novel The Invisible Hour. The book centers on Mia, a young woman whose passion for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book The Scarlet Letter quite literally saves her life. Having taught Hawthorne’s book for years, the references and history of Hawthorne himself that Hoffman employs was just as intriguing as the plot of The Invisible Hour.
Mia is raised in The Community, a compound that some describe as a cult. Her mother Ivy had arrived at The Community just out of high school, pregnant, and looking for a place to belong. It had seemed a haven at first, but by the time Mia is fifteen, the reality of their situation has set in. The Community doesn’t allow the reading of books because they can fill people’s heads with teachings and ideas that aren’t endorsed by the leader, a controlling man named Joel who is also Mia’s stepfather. Every choice he makes is about keeping The Community—especially the women—under his thumb.
Mia, who has been secretly reading and discovered Hawthorne’s greatest work, knows she cannot stay, so she escapes the compound with the help of a local librarian. In The Scarlet Letter, Mia found her courage on her way to live in a world that had so often tried to keep her small.
As Mia embarks on her life outside of The Community, she discovers a way to return to the past and meets her literary hero. Her relationship with Hawthorne is gorgeously rendered. The Invisible Hour, though, isn’t so much about Mia and Hawthorne as it is about the power of books to save us. This is a magical and masterful work; if I could give it ten stars, I would.
|Buy this Book