Martin's Must Reads: 'Hour of the Witch'
“...and so infidel-like he would call me a whore and concoct the most wild stories as to my behavior and then he would strike me in the name of discipline as if I were an untutored child.” From the Petition for Divorce filed by Mary Deerfield, 1662.
I”m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and that’s a transcription from the beginning of Chris Bohjalian’s newest novel Hour of the Witch. Shortly after Mary and her parents arrive from England she is married to Thomas Deerfield, a man with a daughter Mary’s age. A man with a thriving business, a thirst for drink and a mean streak. He only hits Mary when Catherine, their indentured servant, is not in the house.
Mary’s father is a wealthy merchant who imports furniture and all manner of new commodities to their Boston community. Early in the story he gifts Mary four of his newest commodity -- three pronged forks. This seventeenth century spiritual community immediately denounces them as Devil forks and suspects that Mary is a witch.
When Mary finds them planted in her front yard tine side up she fears someone is trying to cast a spell on her or give the community further proof that she must be a witch. When Thomas stabs one of the forks into Mary’s hands, she’s had enough of his abuse and petitions for divorce, an extremely rare occurrence in the 17th century. You’ll have to read the book to find out if her petition is successful, if she is indeed put on trial for being a witch, who planted the forks in Mary’s yard and why.
If you’re looking for a well written story of life in the new world, then you must read Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian.