A tiny child clutching a wolf puppy steps out of the woods of the Olympic National Forest and into the hearts of an entire town. She converses only in howls and growls and has obviously been abused for years. The world descends upon the village of Rain Valley and the Police Chief, a grown-up Homecoming Queen who has gotten by on her beauty for years but is really so much more than just her gorgeous face, pulls in a world-renowned but disgraced psychiatrist, her sister, to treat the wild child. They must get her to talk or they don’t have much hope of finding her family. Hannah’s story of this precious tiny child and her burgeoning trust and love for her doctor and protector is one of the loveliest tales I’ve read in ages. It’s not often a novel has me sobbing, but the last few chapters of Magic Hour were worth at least a box of tissues.
The female characters are all very strong and well thought out. The Police Chief, Ellie, and her side-kick Peanut (Penelope Nutter), friends since childhood, keep the town of Rain Valley on the straight and narrow driving drunks home from the local pub mostly. It’s an easy life for a police force in this sleepy little forest town. The only excitement in the last year has been the arrival of the incredibly handsome and flirty, Dr. Max. But Max has his own secrets as deep and dark as the surrounding forests. Ellie and Peanut also rely on Cal, another friend from childhood, who acts as the police dispatcher when he’s not doodling cartoon characters on any surface he can find. You’ll find that Cal has hidden depths too. Ellie’s sister, Julia, a well-known psychiatrist who has recently been embroiled in a much publicized murder/suicide case involving one of her teenage patients, is called back to Rain Valley to treat the “wild child”. Julia grabs at the chance to redeem herself in the eyes of her colleagues. But when the media descends into Rain Valley with questions not about the child’s welfare but about Julia’s competency, the tables turn. It’s the child’s mission then to save Julia.
The scenes that Hannah crafts of the child, who Julia names Alice, finding another world beyond her forest, learning to verbalize her thoughts, showing her love and trust of those who care for her, are truly wonderful and magical. Magic Hour is going to be my new “go-to” book for times when I need to be reminded of what it really means to be human.