Hester is a wonderfully crafted, imaginative story about who the real character, Hester Prynne could have been in author Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter. With most of Hawthorne’s novels, historians have always been able to trace the backstory to his college years or childhood, etc. But no one has been able to figure out who Hester Prynne was to Nathaniel Hawthorne. Or where the idea for the story came from.
Laurie Lico Albanese’s take on the mystery is not only riveting, but masterfully played out.
Isobel Gambel is a young talented seamstress in the 1800’s who lives in Scotland. Trained by her now dead mother, she is a skillful, imaginative sewer just as the women in her family have been for decades. Some had even been accused of being witches.
When it’s time, she marries a doctor, Edward because she believes he is kind and she feels a sense of security with him. But unbeknownst to Isobel, Edward has a terrible addiction to opioids. When Isobel discovers there is no money and Edward becomes the talk of the town, they decide to sail by ship to Salem in hopes to start a new life. It is there as she is stepping off the ship that she glimpses a handsome man she finds out is Nathaniel Hawthorne.
While Isobel begins to establish herself as a talented seamstress in Salem, Edward decides to take a job as a medic on a ship leaving her by herself with barely any money in a town which she is not totally comfortable. As time passes, she begins to get close to Nathaniel who has admired her work and has requested she make something for him. Not sure of Edward’s whereabouts, they begin an affair. And Isobel is beside herself when she realizes she is pregnant, and Edward has been gone too long for the town’s people to think it is his. She hides the pregnancy and keeps the information from Nathaniel.
When she finally does tell Nathaniel, she cannot believe what she hears. And then Edward returns. Isobel is an adulterer and fears for her and her baby’s safety. But there are friends who she can rely on. Staying in Salem would be a death sentence. What can Isobel possibly do?
Hester tackles more than just a story of adultery. It tells of secrets which had been kept in Salem during that time period as well as how much a young woman cast aside can endure by being tortured and embarrassed in a gossipy town. It also shows her strength in understanding what must be done.
Although we may never know Hawthorne’s inspiration for The Scarlet Letter, this account is both captivating and bewitching!
Thank you #NetGalley #St.Martin’sPress #Hester #LaurieLicoAlbanese for the advanced copy.