Book Review: Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese

“A dark soul can cast a long shadow over the living and the dead,” he says. “Who’s to say that enough hate and anger can’t bring about something terrible?”

Laurie Lico Albanese, Hester

Title: Hester
Author: Laurie Lico Albanese
Genres: Historical Fiction, Retelling, Feminism
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
Published: October 4th, 2022

My Rating: ★★★★
Read: 11/11/2022 – 11/14/2022


I’ll be honest. I wanted to read this book because the cover is gorgeous. I paid minimum attention to the synopsis until later when I was discussing it with the person I ended up buddy-reading it with. Once I fully realized what it was about and where it was set, I was 100% sold.

Isobel and her husband, Edward, immigrate from Scotland to Salem, Massachusetts sometime in the early 1800s. They aren’t together here long as Edward soon joins a ship crew and leaves Isobel behind to fend for herself. She’s not without a trade, fortunately, and is a talented seamstress. But are her talents the result of something that could ultimately put her life in danger?

While Edward is away, Isobel forges a friendship with none other than Nathaniel Hawthorne. Both of them are haunted by their pasts and lineage. This common bond draws them to one another.

I enjoyed this a lot, though I could be biased as I can consider it a local story. I do think I would have gotten a lot more out of the story if I had first read The Scarlet Letter. One thing I still can’t figure out is the significance of the italicized sections of the book. I understand the connection between the characters portrayed here and the protagonists, but they fizzle out toward the end. I personally found it more confusing than an aid in the progression of the story.

This is the first time I’ve read a book that involves a character with synesthesia. So fascinating. It added a lot to Isobel’s character and made the story richer. The descriptions were fantastic.

Likes & Dislikes:

What I liked:

  • The slow burn.
  • The location! (And all of the history that goes with it.)
  • Isobel having synesthesia. It was especially interesting to read about in this time period.

What I didn’t like:

  • Definitely a personal preference here, but all of the witchcraft mentions. I typically avoid books on the subject but made an exception under the circumstances. It unsettles me.
  • I’m no expert on Nathaniel Hawthorne, but I have a romanticized image of him thanks to visits to House of Seven Gables. This book shattered that illusion. (Which is totally on me.)


This made an especially good buddy read! I got a lot more invested than I imagined I would. It ultimately inspired me to take an impromptu afternoon visit to Salem. I couldn’t resist taking a picture at the House of Seven Gables.

Where to buy the book:

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