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The Invisible Hour by Alice Hoffman
Historical fantasy

The Invisible Hour

by Alice Hoffman
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Quick take

A paean to the power of books and trusting your own truth, Alice Hoffman transports us to a world where dreams rule.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NonLinear

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_BasedOnAClassic

    Based on a classic

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_BookAboutBooks

    Book about books

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MamaDrama

    Mama drama


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?

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Why I love it

Books can save lives—they have saved mine many times. That is why I adore this spellbinding story of a teenager imperiled by her intelligence, fierce will, and yes, love of books!

When high school senior Ivy Jacob discovers she is pregnant, the father of her child refuses to help, and her parents prepare to give away her baby. But Ivy wants her daughter more than she wants anything, and so she escapes to a modern utopian community in Massachusetts, where her beauty and pluck lead her into a quick marriage.

Flash forward: Mia Jacob, Ivy’s daughter, has long red hair, bright red boots, and one treasured classic novel—The Scarlet Letter—stolen from the library. She believes in magic, or at least she hopes it is real. She is in love with Nathaniel Hawthorne, even though he has been dead for almost two hundred years.

Also, she may be a witch. And she knows that not all is well in the paradise her mother hoped would save them.

In this remarkable, lyrical tale from master storyteller Alice Hoffman, The Scarlet Letter is an inspiration, a salvation, and the link through time that saves a woman and sets young Nathaniel Hawthorne’s imagination free. If you believe in the transportive power of books and stories, then this time-travel tale will mesmerize you with its breathtaking and magical journey into the past.

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