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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laurie Lico Albanese has published fiction, poetry, journalism, travel writing, creative nonfiction, and memoir. Her books include "Stolen Beauty," "Blue Suburbia: Almost a Memoir," "Lynelle by the Sea," and "The Miracles of Prato," co-written with art historian Laura Morowitz. She lives in Montclair.
ABOUT THE BOOK
"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?
Isobel Gamble is a young seamstress carrying generations of secrets when she sets sail from Scotland in the early 1800s with her husband, Edward. An apothecary who has fallen under the spell of opium, his pile of debts have forced them to flee Edinburgh for a fresh start in the New World. But only days after they've arrived in Salem, Edward abruptly joins a departing ship as a medic––leaving Isobel penniless and alone in a strange country, forced to make her way by any means possible.
When she meets a young Nathaniel Hawthorne, the two are instantly drawn to each other: he is a man haunted by his ancestors, who sent innocent women to the gallows––while she is an unusually gifted needleworker, troubled by her own strange talents. As the weeks pass and Edward's safe return grows increasingly unlikely, Nathaniel and Isobel grow closer and closer. Together, they are a muse and a dark storyteller; the enchanter and the enchanted. But which is which?
In this sensuous and hypnotizing tale, a young immigrant woman grapples with our country's complicated past, and learns that America's ideas of freedom and liberty often fall short of their promise. Interwoven with Isobel and Nathaniel's story is a vivid interrogation of who gets to be a "real" American in the first half of the 19th century, a depiction of the early days of the Underground Railroad in New England, and atmospheric interstitials that capture the long history of "unusual" women being accused of witchcraft. Meticulously researched yet evocatively imagined, Laurie Lico Albanese's Hester is a timeless tale of art, ambition, and desire that examines the roots of female creative power and the men who try to shut it down." —Macmillan
"Should be required reading alongside Hawthorne’s classic tale of adultery. Rich in detail and hauntingly lyrical, she examines the myriad ways that extraordinary women are judged harshly and forced to downplay their gifts in order to conform to society’s demands. Enthralling, ambitious, and a total knock-out." —Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of "The Lions of Fifth Avenue"
ABOUT THE CONVERSATION PARTNER
Alice Elliott Dark is the author of the critically acclaimed recent novel, "Fellowship Point," "Think of England" and two collections of short stories, "In the Gloaming" and "Naked to the Waist." Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The New York Times, Best American Short Stories, and O. Henry: Prize Stories, among others. Her award-winning story “In the Gloaming” was made into two films. Dark is a past recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. She is an Associate Professor at Rutgers-Newark in the MFA program and lives in Montclair, and is a member of the Open Book / Open Mind advisory board.