The Invisible Hour by Alice Hoffman

Our Rating
Author: Alice Hoffman

Category: Fiction, Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)

Book Format: Paperback / softback

Publisher: Scribner UK

ISBN: 9781398528970

RRP: $32.99

Mia Jacob grew up on a commune in Massachusetts with a love of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s writing and The Scarlet Letter in particular. The first half of The Invisible Hour deals with Mia and her mother, Ivy, and their time in ‘the Community’ and their battles with its leader (and Ivy’s husband), Joel Davis. The second half is a magical realist time travel where Mia meets Hawthorne before he’s written that book … which Mia found in her first venture into a library, with its dedication to her. It’s convoluted but it works.

Ivy flees to the commune from Boston after falling pregnant with Mia. Initially life is free, but Joel’s intrusive, overbearing rules begin to chafe at her, and Mia too, as she grows older. Both are keen readers, but books are forbidden. When the Community sells produce in town, Ivy shows Mia the library and suggests she go there. Mia finds a friendly librarian, Sarah, as well as Hawthorne’s book.

Mia has plans for her and her mother to escape. Before they can enact them, though, Ivy is killed in a farm accident. Mia must escape Joel and turns to Sarah for help. Sarah and her partner, Constance, become Mia’s new family. She finishes school and attends university … but Joel still stalks her, wanting to take her back to the Community.

The Scarlet Letter mirrors Ivy’s life and is the talisman allowing Mia to travel back to 1837. She meets Hawthorne, who’s immediately attracted to her. He feels a failure and Mia convinces him of his future success. Joel manages to follow her, though. She must overcome her fear to free herself. Her journey is an awakening on multiple levels.

Reviewed by Bob Moore



Alice Hoffman has become one of the most distinguished novelists. She has published over thirty novels, three books of short fiction, and eight books for children and young adults. Her novel, Here on Earth, an Oprah’s Book Club choice, was a modern reworking of some of the themes of Emily Bronte’s masterpiece Wuthering HeightsPractical Magic was made into a Warner Brothers film starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Her novel, At Risk, which concerns a family dealing with AIDS, can be found on the reading lists of many universities, colleges and secondary schools. Hoffman’s advance from Local Girls, a collection of inter-related fictions about love and loss on Long Island, was donated to help create the Hoffman Breast Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA. Hoffman has written a number of novels for young adults, including AquamarineGreen Angel, and Green Witch. In 2007 Little Brown published the teen novel Incantation, a story about hidden Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, which Publishers Weekly chose as one of the best books of the year.

Hoffman’s work has been published in more than twenty translations and more than one hundred foreign editions. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by The New York TimesEntertainment WeeklyThe Los Angeles TimesLibrary Journal, and People Magazine. She has also worked as a screenwriter and is the author of the original screenplay “Independence Day,” a film starring Kathleen Quinlan and Diane Wiest. Her teen novel Aquamarine was made into a film starring Emma Roberts. Her short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New York TimesThe Boston Globe Magazine, Kenyon ReviewThe Los Angeles Times, Architectural DigestHarvard ReviewPloughshares and other magazines.

Visit Alice Hoffman’s website

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