May 04, 2021

Hour of the Witch

By Chris Bohjalian
Review by

Chris Bohjalian blends historical fiction with a thrilling courtroom drama in his latest novel, Hour of the Witch.

Share this Article:

Chris Bohjalian (The Guest Room) blends historical fiction with a thrilling courtroom drama in his latest novel, Hour of the Witch. Its narrator’s unique voice and perspective make this a fascinating and immersive read.

Mary Deerfield is a young Puritan woman who lives in Boston in 1662 and whose faith guides every aspect of her life. She’s constantly watching for signs—from both God and the devil. When her husband Thomas' physical abuse becomes too much to bear, she breaks from tradition and makes an unprecedented request to be granted a divorce on the grounds of cruelty. Mary’s decision to assert herself rather than submit to the will of her husband and the Church causes a cascade of unexpected events, the most terrifying of which is Mary being accused of witchcraft, a charge that could lead to her execution.

The themes in Hour of the Witch are universal: A young woman seeks to escape her husband's abuse and also the patriarchal culture that allows such abuse to persist. By demanding to be released from her marriage, Mary faces judgement that victims of violence from intimate partners still experience today. What makes this novel remarkable and compulsively readable is Bohjalian’s uncanny ability to capture the Puritan perspective. Mary’s manner of thinking is heavily informed by her religion and also by superstition; ultimately, she must break away from those structures in order to survive.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Chris Bohjalian explores the eerie similarities between the Puritans' time and our own.

As Mary’s community searches for supernatural evil and analyzes her every action for signs of witchcraft, true evil, in the form of Thomas’ abuse, is allowed to flourish due to his standing in the community. The reader will acutely feel Mary’s justifiable paranoia as she becomes the scapegoat for all of her community’s woes. Her fear of both Thomas and the people she is supposed to be able to trust make the tension in this novel almost claustrophobic.

Hour of the Witch is at once brilliantly idiosyncratic while also recognizable. This genre-defying thriller is sure to become a staple of book clubs and a favorite of historical mystery fans.

Trending Reviews

Get the Book

Hour of the Witch

Hour of the Witch

By Chris Bohjalian
ISBN 9780385542432

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our newsletter to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.