Hour of the Witch

Books on Tape. May 2021. 14:08 hrs. ISBN 9780593348819. Audio. $40. F
In this shocking portrait of life in 1660s Boston, 24-year-old Mary is the wife of an older man named Thomas Deerfield, and the daughter of a wealthy importer. Bohjalian’s (The Flight Attendant) descriptions of daily life, grueling work, lashings, and Puritan practices are riveting, along with the antiquated terms of address, such as “thee” and “thou.” Puritan men are supposed to guide their “inferior” wives, but Deerfield is cruel and often belittles and beats the sometimes-willful Mary; things escalate when he drives a three-tined fork (a utensil known as “the Devil’s tines”) into Mary’s hand and pretends it was an accident. Mary feels helpless until she petitions the court to divorce Thomas, but the situation worsens when several witnesses claim that Mary is a witch who is trying to kill her husband. She’s denied a divorce, then tried as a witch. Much of the book covers Mary’s compelling trial, with absorbing dialogue from the prosecution and defense. The conclusion is as unexpected as it is satisfying. Narrator Grace Experience deftly presents a relatable Mary who’s inspiring and never gives up despite the horrors she endures. The multiple supporting voices present a seemingly authentic depiction of how the 17th-century setting might have sounded.
VERDICT Recommended for historical fiction readers and fans of the author.
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