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Magic Hour    by Kristen Hannah order for
Magic Hour
by Kristen Hannah
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Julia Cates was always the quiet and studious one in a family of four - a larger-than-life father, a warm and loving mother, and an outgoing and popular older sister who was crowned homecoming queen. Julia always felt like an outcast and couldn't wait to leave her family and rustic hometown behind. Now she's a renowned psychiatrist whose specialty is treating troubled children and teens. But when one of her young patients goes on a shooting rampage, Julia's credibility and career are ruined after a very public lawsuit. When she receives a desperate call from her estranged sister Ellie, now police chief of Rain Valley Washington, Julia heads home, determined to escape the bad memories of her Los Angeles experiences.

She discovers that the whole town has rallied around a wild child who had wandered in from the woods days before cradling a wolf pup. Ellie is determined to keep federal authorities away, certain they would only study the child and eventually lock her away, as happened to other feral children. Julia agrees, and little Alice soon becomes her personal quest. At first, she believes Alice may be autistic, but the child's thirst for knowledge and affection proves Julia wrong. Despite all Ellie's safeguards to keep the media at bay, word leaks about Alice. Media and federal authorities swoop in and question Julia's competence. Harder to bear are the dozens of parents who travel to Rain Valley in the vain hope that Alice is their lost daughter. But Julia, Ellie, and the rest of the townsfolk don't allow themselves to be swayed from protecting and nurturing their wild child - not even when the revelation of Alice's identity explodes in a final shocking and emotional confrontation.

Kristen Hannah takes an almost unbelievable premise and breathes incredible life into it. Magic Hour is a poignant and unforgettable story about a damaged little girl and the circle of special people who show her how to trust and to love again. Hannah knows character dynamics and she shines in portraying them here. Julia and Ellie's brittle reunion and their eventual reconciliation are well done, as is a secondary thread about Ellie's quest for true love. Most poignant however, are the scenes where Hannah delves into Alice's disjointed thoughts, observations and longings as she tries to understand what has happened to her. Magic Hour is a magical story that you'll read in a single sitting and won't soon forget.

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