What’s Ashley Reading?: Hour of the Witch

Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian

First line: It was always possible that the Devil was present.

Summary: Mary Deerfield, a young married woman in 1662 Boston, has been hiding a secret from her friends and family. In the years that she has been married her husband has hit her numerous times while drunk for imagined slights against him. But then one day he takes his cruelty one step further. He drives a three-tined fork, the Devil’s tines, into her hand. With a strong conviction of finally divorcing her abusive husband she also faces suspicion from the Puritan community. She finds that she is suspected of things that could lead her to a death on the gallows.

My Thoughts: This book started very slowly for me. Much of it dealt with the time period, life and getting to know the characters and their history. I felt that story finally picked up after the divorce trial. The pace seemed to be faster and the story more intriguing. But once the story picked up I was completely enthralled but disgusted by everything.

It is hard sometimes to read historical books, especially if the author writes them accurately. I feel like the author brought to life the true sense of the ridiculousness of Puritan Boston. Their views on women, the Devil and anything that was different. I rolled my eyes so many times during the trials because of the hearsay, circumstantial evidence and belief system of the time. Reading these types of books we see how far society has come but we still have a long way to go as well.

I enjoyed Mary’s story. She was a strong woman in a very restrictive society. She endures a lot throughout the book and much of it at no fault of her own. I was definitely rooting for her the whole time. I wanted things to be better for her with every disappointment and injury. But her husband and many of the other characters were awful people that I could not wait to see the end of.

I do not know how I feel about the ending. It almost seemed like a cop-out. Too easy of an ending but at the same time I liked aspects of it. Rating this was difficult but I think that it was worth the read.

FYI: Wonderful historical fiction. Perfect if you are interested in colonial America and the Salem Witch Trials.

Book Thoughts from Mrs. Roberts: The Red Lotus

The Red Lotus by Chris Bohjalian

FIRST LINE: The opposite of a hospice? Not a maternity ward or a NICU. It’s a trick question.

SUMMARY: “A twisting story of love and deceit: an American man vanishes on a rural road in Vietnam, and his girlfriend, an emergency room doctor trained to ask questions, follows a path that leads her home to the very hospital where they met.” (New York Times)

The main character, Alexis, is an ER doctor who meets her boyfriend, Austin, for the first time in the emergency room on a Saturday night with a bullet wound. Austin also works at the hospital in the research department. Six months later the two of them take a bike tour to Vietnam where Austin wanted to pay respects to the place where his father and uncle fought in the war. Austin vanishes into thin air. The webs of deceit begin to unravel.

When Alexis returns home to the emergency room in New York, she is unsettled by Austin’s death. She becomes an amateur detective and recruits a private investigator/ex-cop to help her uncover many lies about Austin and the work he was involved in. Rat research labs are discovered in Alexis’ hospital and in Vietnam to create a species of rat that can carry the plague world-wide.

MY THOUGHTS: I wasn’t sure where the book was going after the first 100 pages. Then the twists and suspense began. I couldn’t believe I was reading a book about research being done to create a plague during this time of COVID. The development of the rat research is a big part of the story; but the story is also about friendship and the connections that people make with others.