The Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah narrated by Suzanne Toren

What an amazing novel this is! Like many readers, I ADORED Alice (aka Brittany) She shines through every page. What makes her so alive is the painstaking accrual of detail that author Ms. Hannah supplies, from her amazing eyes, to the scars on her body, to her halting speech, and the way she is able to sit so still.

Clearly, five-and-a-half-year-old Alice is not your typical little girl. The inhabitants of Rain Valley, Washington State find her one cold day, sitting in a tree with a pet wolf.

Of course, people don’t know what to make of her, especially as she is mute. When they come too close, she bites, flails, roars, and growls. Without sensitive medical care, she would end up in the local mental hospital, chained to a bed for the rest of her days.

But Alice is lucky. Dr. Julia Cates comes to town, disappearing from the too-intrusive view of cameras and reporters who have excoriated her for the murder of four people by one of her patients. What kind of doctor is she? they ask. How come she didn’t notice the signs?

Poor Julia is devastated by the sudden loss of the career she loves, but shortly afterward sister Ellie, the Police Chief in Rain Valley, reaches out, asking her to help with this mysterious girl.

Julia has great patience and a large heart and she works gently for hours and hours until she gains Alice’s trust. Both woman and girl develop a rapport, a safe space, in which Alice – traumatized by a brutal kidnapping, the murder of her mother, and her own imprisonment at the hands of a male who is clearly crazy – feels safe enough to gingerly return to this world, and begin speaking again.

But one fine day, her father shows up, after being released from a 3-year prison term in which he was convicted of the murder of his wife and daughter. It would be so easy to cast this man as the villain of the piece, and at first he certainly seems to act the part with his charming smile, movie-star good looks, and smooth manner. But what is so great about Kristin Hannah, is that she DOESN’T write clichéd fiction. And so this overly-smooth character turns out to be innocent of the crime he was convicted of. And he demands his daughter back.

Of course, the State of Washington gives him his daughter. After all, she looks exactly like him, and like so many places, Washington is all about bringing the family together. But in this case, this decision turns out to be a disaster. Although Alice’s father is not a murderer, he was NOT a good father. His daughter barely saw him in the first two-and-a-half years of her life, as he was always away from home. Therefore he is a complete stranger to her. When he forces her away from the only person who has ever loved her (apart from her dead mother), Alice panics and regresses, howling, biting, flailing, and carrying on in the restaurant where he is attempting to have dinner. Even the expensive psychiatrist he hired to deal with Alice cannot calm her down, because he is also a complete stranger to the girl.

And so, Alice’s father arrives back on Julia’s doorstep, handing over his daughter to her to heal.

A magnificent tale that is MAGICAL! Five stars.

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