Hour of the Witch: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries) - book cover
  • Publisher : Vintage
  • Published : 25 Jan 2022
  • Pages : 496
  • ISBN-10 : 0525432698
  • ISBN-13 : 9780525432692
  • Language : English

Hour of the Witch: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries)

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the acclaimed author of The Flight Attendant: "Historical fiction at its best…. The book is a thriller in structure, and a real page-turner, the ending both unexpected and satisfying" (Diana Gabaldon, bestselling author of the Outlander series, The Washington Post).

young Puritan woman-faithful, resourceful, but afraid of the demons that dog her soul-plots her escape from a violent marriage in this riveting and propulsive novel of historical suspense.

Boston, 1662. Mary Deerfield is twenty-four-years-old. Her skin is porcelain, her eyes delft blue, and in England she might have had many suitors. But here in the New World, amid this community of saints, Mary is the second wife of Thomas Deerfield, a man as cruel as he is powerful. When Thomas, prone to drunken rage, drives a three-tined fork into the back of Mary's hand, she resolves that she must divorce him to save her life.

But in a world where every neighbor is watching for signs of the devil, a woman like Mary-a woman who harbors secret desires and finds it difficult to tolerate the brazen hypocrisy of so many men in the colony-soon becomes herself the object of suspicion and rumor. When tainted objects are discovered buried in Mary's garden, when a boy she has treated with herbs and simples dies, and when their servant girl runs screaming in fright from her home, Mary must fight to not only escape her marriage, but also the gallows.

A twisting, tightly plotted novel of historical suspense from one of our greatest storytellers, Hour of the Witch is a timely and terrifying story of socially sanctioned brutality and the original American witch hunt.

Editorial Reviews

One of the Washington Post's 50 Notable Works of Fiction of the Year • A Real Simple Best New Book A Read It Forward Most Anticipated Book A Lit Hub Most Anticipated Book A CrimeReads Most Anticipated Book A GoodReads Most Anticipated Book An AARP Most Anticipated Book

"Hour of the Witch is historical fiction at its best… Insightful and empathetic… Thick with details as chowder is with clams… Handled with great skill and delicacy. The book is a thriller in structure, and a real page-turner, the ending both unexpected and satisfying."
-Diana Gabaldon, The Washington Post

"Harrowing... In the hands of a master storyteller like Bohjalian, [Hour of the Witch is] an engrossing tale of a woman who insists upon the right to navigate her life, and the consequences when she does."
Danielle Trussoni, New York Times Book Review

"Bohjalian does an admirable job of bringing his numerous players to life in all their complexity... Hour of the Witch-part courtroom thriller, part psychological suspense novel-holds a reader's rapt attention all the way to its startling conclusion."
-Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal

"[A] knotty dilemma lies at the heart of what is, at a deeper level, a novel of psychological suspense. Can one know if one is, indeed, damned?...In Bohjalian's deft portrayal, Mary chafes at her societal and marital confines...[Shows] how timeless some battles -and some heroines - are."
Clea Simon, Boston Globe

"Chris Bohjalian never disappoints... Guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat."

"A rich and terrifying story... A grab-you-by-the-throat suspense read that both historical fiction fans and thriller lovers will devour."
-Real Simple

"No. 1 New York Times bestselling author and literary legend Chris Bohjalian returns with a story about Mary Deerfield, a suspected witch in 1662 Boston who, while wrestling with her own internal demons and disastrous marriage, raises suspicion that the demons aren't just in her own mind."
-Zibby Owens, Good Morning America

"Unputdownable... Relying on a large cast of well-developed characters and an intricate plot, Bohjalian skillfully ratchets up the tension all the way through the exceptional ending."
-Modern Mrs. Darcy

"Bohjalian is excellent at suspense (he also wrote The Flight Attendant) and at lovingly detailed scene setting... But this novel's true strength is in its portrayal of an abused person's mind... our of the Witch also raises perceptive questions about how fixed ident...

Readers Top Reviews

Loved this book.Lots of twists and turns.Really enjoyed reading this book.
Lillian StonerRita D
Poorly conceived and poorly written. I’m a huge fan of the author and of historical fiction, and found this book to be a complete waste of time. The plot line seemed promising but never got off the ground. I found the main character sniveling and two dimensional. A big big disappointment.
Anne Lewisreadinginm
I have never seen a book that was so poorly printed. This is what I have found up to page 127. I would love to know how many others have found the same type of shoddiness.
Susan D. Delaney, MD
A fine book, well researched, that takes us into the world of Boston in the 1600's. The book is heavy with physical and emotional abuse of a wife by her husband. In virtually every way, the woman, a good and innocent woman, is trapped in her marriage. If you have been abused, or if your brilliance as a woman has been ignored or put down in a relationship or at work, this book is not one you will read straight through. You might have to pick it up and put it down. It is beautifully written. The foreshadowing is brilliant and the ending will stun you. But it will trigger you if you are a survivor. Compared to his brilliant book, The Guest Room, which contains much worse abuse of girls and women, Guest Room is set, in part, in another country, and the abuse occurs in situations that are very "other." Hour of the Witch is set in Boston, with familiar, relatable American characters, and thus is more triggering.

Short Excerpt Teaser


It was always possible that the Devil was present.

Certainly, God was watching. And their Savior.

And so they were never completely alone. Not even when they might wander out toward the mudflats or the salt marshes which, because they all but disappeared at high tide, they called the Back Bay, or they happened to scale the Trimountain-three separate hills, really, Cotton and Sentry and Beacon-they had virtually flattened as they moved the earth to create the jetties and wharves and foundations for the warehouses. Not even along the narrow neck that led to the mainland, or when they were in the woods (most definitely not when they were in the woods) on the far side of the slender spit.

They knew there was something with them when they were otherwise alone in their small, dark houses-the windows some-times mere slits and often shuttered against the wind and the cold- and a man could write in his diary (his ledger, in essence, in which he would catalog the day's events and his state of mind in an effort to gauge whether he was among the elect), or a woman could scribble a few lines of poetry about the trees or the rivers or those astonishing sand dunes that rolled in the night like sea waves.

Sometimes the presence was frightening, especially if there were other indications that the Devil was at hand. But then there were those moments when it was comforting, and they, mere sheep to their divinity, felt the company of their shepherd. It was soothing, reassuring, breathtakingly beautiful.

Either way, more times than not, the women and men took consolation in the notion that there were explanations for a world that was so clearly inexplicable-and, usually, inexplicable in ways that were horrifying: a shallop with a dozen oarsmen disappearing beneath the water somewhere between the piers and the massive, anchored ship with its barrels of seasonings, its containers of gun-powder, its crates of pewter and porcelain and pillowbeers. That shallop vanished completely. One moment, sailors on the docks in the harbor could see it plainly. But then the clouds rolled in and the rains began, and the boat never emerged from the froth and the foam, and the bodies never were found.


Or that farmer who was gored through the stomach by a bull and took three days, every moment of which he was in agony, to die in his bedstead. How do you explain that? By the end of the ordeal, the feathers and cornhusks in the great bag beneath him were as red as the linen in which they were wrapped. Never had it taken a man so long to bleed out.

Three days. A number of biblical import.

But, still. Still.

How do you explain a husband who will break his wife's leg with a fireplace poker, and then chain her around the waist to the plow so she can't leave his property? And who then goes away? The woman waited a full day before she began to cry out.

How do you explain hurricanes that suck whole wharves into the sea, fires that spread from the hearth to the house and leave behind nothing but two blackened chimneys, how do you explain droughts and famines and floods? How do you explain babies who die and children who die and, yes, even old people who die?

Never did they ask the question Why me? In truth, they never even asked the more reasonable question Why anyone? Because they knew. They knew what was out there in the wilds, and what was inside them that was, arguably, wilder still. Though good works could not in themselves change a thing-original sin was no fiction, predestination no fable-they might be a sign. A good sign. Sanctification followed justification.

And as for divorce . . . it happened. Rarely. But it did. It was possible. At least it was supposed to be. Mediation was always better than litigation, because this was, after all, a community of saints. At least that was the plan. There were the tangible grounds: Desertion. Destitution. Bigamy. Adultery (which was indeed a capital crime because of the Lord God's edicts in Leviticus and Deuternomy, though no adulterer ever was actually hanged). Impotence. Cruelty.

It was a violent world, but still you weren't supposed to strike your spouse. At least not without provocation. Mary Deerfield knew all this, she knew it because God had given her an excellent mind- despite what her husband, Thomas, would tell her. And though brains hadn't helped Anne Hutchinson (Winthrop himself opined that her problem was that she meddled too much by trying to think like a man), and in later years brains most definitely would not help the score of women who would be hanged as witches in Salem, she knew intellectually she had done nothing wrong and didn't deserve to be hit like a brute animal. She wou...