Class after class, year after year, she introduced reluctant high school juniors to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s masterwork, The Scarlet Letter. Yet the novel never got old to her- something new always managing to kindle an imaginative spark within her. She had voiced her desire to write this book for as long as I can remember. And write it she did. During my junior and senior years at Thomas Jefferson High School in Tampa, she was my AP Language and Literature teacher. A handful of years later, she became my mentor and colleague, sharing her experience and hard-won wisdom with me, as we taught our students about the beauty of language. Now, she is my good friend and published author! I am so proud of her and beyond honored to have been one of the first to proofread and provide feedback on her manuscript, and I thank her for the privilege and for her kindness in including me in her printed acknowledgments at the book’s opening.
Hester, a beautiful and worthy prequel to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, details the life of the raven-haired, sixteen-year-old beauty, before she is branded with a fiery “A” and shunned by her townspeople. Though she is at the center of Hawthorne’s tale, readers are left with many a gap to fill and assumption to make, as Hester’s first appearance to us in the classic is that of a fallen woman, infant in hand, being publicly shamed upon the scaffold. Aldridge’s debut novel transports readers back to a time prior to Hester’s undoing, when she is merely a beautiful young woman who has been dealt more than a few bad hands in her short life- the loss of both parents, the arranged marriage to an old scholar- yet is excited to embark on a new journey, to the Massachusetts colony of Boston.
Though written with a modern reader in mind, Aldridge’s Hester captures the flowing prose and extended, complex syntax of Hawthorne quite remarkably. The chapters, rich with details of Puritan colony life, flow gracefully, leading readers up to the fated meeting of the star-crossed lovers Hester and Arthur and subsequent unravelings. In short, Hester provides us, tastefully, with the good stuff Hawthorne left out!
This is a great read for fans of The Scarlet Letter, high school students who are preparing to read the classic, and for literary and history buffs who will, without doubt, appreciate the painstaking attention to detail and historical accuracy the author has provided.