by Laurie Lico Albanese is a clever reimagining of both The Scarlet Letter and the life of its author, Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hester follows the plight of Isobel Gamble, a young woman who arrives in Salem, Massachusetts in the early 1800s with her husband, Edward, whose opium addiction and debts have chased them out of Scotland. When Edward abandons her in Salem, Isobel finds herself drawn to the handsome, charismatic young writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne, who is haunted by his own family’s past and their grim, punitive role in the Salem witch trials. Like The Scarlet Letter’s Hester Prynne, Isobel has an uncanny skill at needlework and a shame-filled background and, as her husband’s return grows increasingly unlikely, Isobel and Nathaniel grow closer to each other. This is a love story, an ode to creative passion, and a history of the complicated moral contradictions of early American life.