HESTER by Laurie Lico Albanese

A vivid reimagining of the woman who inspired Hester Prynne, the tragic heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, and a journey into the enduring legacy of New England’s witchcraft trials.

Who is the real Hester Prynne?

A lot of historical facts blended with some imagination give us a look at who Hester may have been.

It’s the early 1800s when Isobel Gamble sails from Scotland to Salem with her new husband, Edward. She is a gifted seamstress who sees in full color. He is an apothecary who has sampled too much of his own medicine forcing them to leave England and Scotland for a fresh start. On the journey, the captain’s life is saved by Hester and Edward and he is forever in her debt.

Soon after they arrive, Edward leaves, joining the captain as a medic on his ship. He also stole all of Isobel’s money she had hidden. He leaves her alone and with no money. Nothing but her sewing. Isobel isn’t one to sit and moan. She finds work sewing.

One day she meets a young Nathaniel Hathorne and they are drawn to each other. His family with a history of cruelty and witch-hunting. Her family, the witches. They come together as she sews for him, always with a message sewn into her work. A red letter A. Because A is red to Isobel.

There is so much going on in this book. The story of immigrants who weren’t treated kindly, of women who were easy to call witches if they didn’t follow the ‘rules’. With the early times of the underground railroad and how even freed slaves were rarely free.

It was a beautifully researched and written story and I loved it.

NetGalley/ October 4th, 2022 by St. Martin’s Press

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