A young woman. A cult. The Scarlet Letter. Time travel. Love.
Varied themes, all covered in Alice Hoffman’s new book The Invisible Hour.
Hoffman is the author of more than 30 works of fiction, including Practical Magic, which received the Hollywood treatment in 1998 featuring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman.
The Invisible Hour follows 16-year-old Ivy who is pregnant and alone after being cast out by her family. She is offered refuge by Joel Davis, the charismatic leader of a cult known as the Community.
Daughter Mia has only ever known life in the Community. While out serving the Community one weekend, Mia discovers a world beyond the borders of the Community by reading, a transgression according to the cult. She stumbles upon The Scarlet Letter which puts her on a path she never could have imagined.
Hoffman told The AJN that she was always interested in the life of Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter.
“For a time, I lived right near the house where he lived right after he was married, and I used to go walk there and think about what it was like when he was writing The Scarlet Letter,” she wrote from the US. “When I read The Scarlet Letter, I thought it would be stuffy and old-fashioned, but in fact, it was very modern, with its take on women’s rights. His story is about a woman who is an outcast because she gets pregnant and decides to raise her child alone in the woods, and I thought that so many of the issues his main character Hester was dealing with women today are still dealing with.”
Hoffman explained that she has always been a fan of time travel, referring to novels as the ultimate form of time travel.
“The truth is, I think we time travel every time we read a book that was written 100 years ago, or 40 years ago or 200 years ago,” she said.
When asked what she hopes readers feel when reading The Invisible Hour, Hoffman said in the long run, the book is actually about the relationships between mothers and daughters, which can be very complex.
“I’m hoping that readers feel [a] kinship with Mia and her mother Ivy,” she said. “And I would hope that readers would feel some sort of healing and have an emotional reaction to these women.”
Her best advice for budding writers? Write every day, ensure it becomes a habit. She said the more you write, the easier it becomes, “even though it’s never easy”.
“For young writers or new writers, I always feel that you never know what’s going to happen until you do it and if you don’t try, it definitely won’t happen.”
The Invisible Hour is published by Simon and Schuster.