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Magic Hour

Magic Hour

4.3 402
by Kristin Hannah

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BONUS: This edition contains a Magic Hour discussion guide.

In the rugged Pacific Northwest lies the Olympic National Forest—nearly a million acres of impenetrable darkness and impossible beauty. From deep within this old growth forest, a six-year-old girl appears. Speechless and alone, she offers no clue as to her identity, no hint of her past.


BONUS: This edition contains a Magic Hour discussion guide.

In the rugged Pacific Northwest lies the Olympic National Forest—nearly a million acres of impenetrable darkness and impossible beauty. From deep within this old growth forest, a six-year-old girl appears. Speechless and alone, she offers no clue as to her identity, no hint of her past.

Having retreated to her western Washington hometown after a scandal left her career in ruins, child psychiatrist Dr. Julia Cates is determined to free the extraordinary little girl she calls Alice from a prison of unimaginable fear and isolation. To reach her, Julia must discover the truth about Alice’s past—although doing so requires help from Julia’s estranged sister, a local police officer. The shocking facts of Alice’s life test the limits of Julia’s faith and strength, even as she struggles to make a home for Alice—and for herself. In Magic Hour, Kristin Hannah creates one of her most beloved characters, and delivers an incandescent story about the resilience of the human spirit, the triumph of hope, and the meaning of home.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hannah's melodramatic 15th novel (after The Things We Do for Love) tells the addictive soap opera story of a feral child and the adults who rally to help her. The cast of stock characters is led by child psychiatrist Dr. Julia Cates, whose reputation was ruined when she failed to prevent a teen patient from staging a Columbine-style massacre. Her sister, Ellie Barton, a smalltown former homecoming queen-turned-chief of police, summons Julia from Los Angeles to their Pacific Northwest hometown of Rain Valley to take on the case of a mysterious lost child, who appeared one day on the edge of town, presumably raised by wolves. With the dashing doctor Dr. Max Cerrasin at her side, Julia works diligently to tame the mute girl, whom she names Alice. Max, like Julia, is running from demons of his own. Though she initially rebuffs his overtures ("When I love, I risk my heart. All or nothing," Julia declares), their romance inevitably blossoms while they work to solve the mystery of Alice's parentage. The novel's real love story, though, is the passion between Alice and Julia, and it's hard not to root for the vulnerable little Wolf Girl. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Life seems over for Dr. Julia Cates, a prominent child psychiatrist, when she misdiagnoses a teenager who then shoots up a church youth group. Salvation for Julia comes shortly later when her estranged sister, Ellie Barton, chief of police in their hometown of Rain Valley, WA, asks for her help with a "wild child" found with a wolf in the forest near town. Supported by her sister, Julia works tirelessly at trying to discover why this child, whom she names Alice, behaves like an animal and doesn't speak. Ruling out autism, Julia gradually gains Alice's trust and makes amazing progress with the child, teaching her to speak and act more like an average six-year-old. At the same time Julia and Ellie grow closer, putting past problems aside. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love) doesn't spare the emotion or stereotypes in this soapy melodrama, although the book is not without its redeeming moments. Also, the author builds suspense skillfully, keeping listeners unsure about Alice's fate until the end. Suzanne Toren reads this love story between the little wolf girl and her therapist with clarity, capturing the essence of each personality. This will appeal to Hannah fans who enjoy romance and suspense; recommended for popular fiction collections.-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case. Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters' professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia's name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who's never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl's parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl's perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah's torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice's past and creating a home for her. Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.
From the Publisher
“A wonderful novel–wild, radiant, and vivid. Kristin Hannah writes with great heart.”
–Luanne Rice, author of Summer of Roses

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Random House Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt


It will all be over soon.

Julia Cates had lost count of the times she'd told herself that very thing, but today--finally--it would be true. In a few hours the world would know the truth about her.

If she made it downtown, that was. Unfortunately, the Pacific Coast Highway looked more like a parking lot than a freeway. The hills behind Malibu were on fire again; smoke hung above the rooftops and turned the normally bright coastal air into a thick brown sludge. All over town terrified babies woke in the middle of the night, crying gray-black tears and gasping for breath. Even the surf seemed to have slowed down, as if exhausted by the unseasonable heat.

She maneuvered through the cranky, stop-and-go traffic, ignoring the drivers who flipped her off and cut in front of her. It was expected; in this most dangerous of seasons in Southern California, tempers caught fire as easily as backyards. The heat made everyone edgy.

Finally, she exited the freeway and drove to the courthouse.

Television vans were everywhere. Dozens of reporters huddled on the courthouse steps, microphones and cameras at the ready, waiting for the story to arrive. In Los Angeles it was becoming a daily event, it seemed; legal proceedings as entertainment. Michael Jackson. Courtney Love. Robert Blake.

Julia turned a corner and drove to a side entrance, where her lawyers were waiting for her.

She parked on the street and got out of the car, expecting to move forward confidently, but for a terrible second she couldn't move. You're innocent, she reminded herself. They'll see that. The system will work. She forced herself to take a step, then another. It felt as if she were moving through invisible wires, fighting her way uphill. When she made it to the group, it took everything she had to smile, but one thing she knew: it looked real. Every psychiatrist knew how to make a smile look genuine.

"Hello, Dr. Cates," said Frank Williams, the lead counsel on her defense team. "How are you?"

"Let's go," she said, wondering if she was the only one who heard the wobble in her voice. She hated that evidence of her fear. Today, of all days, she needed to be strong, to show the world that she was the doctor they'd thought she was, that she'd done nothing wrong.

The team coiled protectively around her. She appreciated their support. Although she was doing her best to appear professional and confident, it was a fragile veneer. One wrong word could strip it all away.

They pushed through the doors and walked into the courthouse.

Flashbulbs erupted in spasms of blue-white light. Cameras clicked; tape rolled. Reporters surged forward, all yelling at once.

"Dr. Cates! How do you feel about what happened?"

"Why didn't you save those children?"

"Did you know about the gun?"

Frank put an arm around Julia and pulled her against his side. She pressed her face against his lapel and let herself be pulled along.

In the courtroom, she took her place at the defendant's table. One by one the team rallied around her. Behind her, in the first row of gallery seating, several junior associates and paralegals took their places.

She tried to ignore the racket behind her; the doors creaking open and slamming shut, footsteps hurrying across the marble tiled floor, whispered voices. Empty seats were filling up quickly; she knew it without turning around. This courtroom was the Place to Be in Los Angeles today, and since the judge had disallowed cameras in the courtroom, journalists and artists were no doubt packed side by side in the gallery, their pens ready.

In the past year, they'd written an endless string of stories about her. Photographers had snapped thousands of pictures of her--taking out the trash, standing on her deck, coming and going from her office. The least flattering shots always made the front page.

Reporters had practically set up camp outside her condo, and although she had never spoken to them, it didn't matter. The stories kept coming. They reported on her small-town roots, her stellar education, her pricey beachfront condo, her devastating breakup with Philip. They even speculated that she'd recently become either anorexic or addicted to liposuction. What they didn't report on was the only part of her that mattered: her love of her job. She had been a lonely, awkward child, and she remembered every nuance of that pain. Her own youth had made her an exceptional psychiatrist.

Of course, that bit of truth had never made it to press. Neither had a list of all the children and adolescents she'd helped.

A hush fell over the courtroom as Judge Carol Myerson took her seat at the bench. She was a stern-looking woman with artificially bright auburn hair and old-fashioned eyeglasses.

The bailiff called out the case.

Julia wished suddenly that she had asked someone to join her here today, some friend or relative who would stand by her, maybe hold her hand when it was over, but she'd always put work ahead of socializing. It hadn't given her much time to devote to friends. Her own therapist had often pointed out this lack in her life; truthfully, until now, she'd never agreed with him.

Beside her, Frank stood. He was an imposing man, tall and almost elegantly thin, with hair that was going from black to gray in perfect order, sideburns first. She'd chosen him because of his brilliant mind, but his demeanor was likely to matter more. Too often in rooms like this it came down to form over substance.

"Your Honor," he began in a voice as soft and persuasive as any she'd ever heard, "the naming of Dr. Julia Cates as a defendant in this lawsuit is absurd. Although the precise limits and boundaries of confidentiality in psychiatric situations are often disputed, certain precedents exist, namely Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California. Dr. Cates had no knowledge of her patient's violent tendencies and no information regarding specific threats to named individuals. Indeed, no such specific knowledge is even alleged in the complaint. Thus, we respectfully request that she be dismissed from this lawsuit. Thank you." He sat down.

At the plaintiff's table, a man in a jet-black suit stood up. "Four children are dead, Your Honor. They will never grow up, never leave for college, never have children of their own. Dr. Cates was Amber Zuniga's psychiatrist. For three years Dr. Cates spent two hours a week with Amber, listening to her problems and prescribing medications for her growing depression. Yet with all that intimacy, we are now to believe that Dr. Cates didn't know that Amber was becoming increasingly violent and depressed. That she had no warning whatsoever that her patient would buy an automatic weapon and walk into her church youth group meeting and start shooting." The lawyer walked out from behind the table and stood in the middle of the courtroom.

Slowly, he turned to face Julia. It was the money shot; the one that would be drawn by every artist in the courtroom and shown around the world, "She is the expert, Your Honor. She should have foreseen this tragedy and prevented it by warning the victims or committing Ms. Zuniga for residential treatment. If she didn't in fact know of Ms. Zuniga's violent tendencies, she should have. Thus, we respectfully seek to keep Dr. Cates as a named defendant in this case. It is a matter of justice. The slain children's families deserve redress from the person most likely to have foreseen and prevented the murder of their children." He went back to the table and took his seat.

"It isn't true," Julia whispered, knowing her voice couldn't be heard. Still, she had to say it out loud. Amber had never even hinted at violence. Every teenager battling depression said they hated the kids in their school. That was light-years away from buying a gun and opening fire.

Why couldn't they all see that?

Judge Myerson read over the paperwork in front of her. Then she took off her reading glasses and set them down on the hard wooden surface of her bench.

The courtroom fell into silence. Julia knew that the journalists were ready to write instantly. Outside, there were more of them standing by, ready to run with two stories. Both headlines were already written. All they needed was a sign from their colleagues inside.

The children's parents, huddled in the back rows in a mournful group, were waiting to be assured that this tragedy could have been averted, that someone in a position of authority could have kept their children alive. They had sued everyone for wrongful death--the police, the paramedics, the drug manufacturers, the medical doctors, and the Zuniga family. The modern world no longer believed in senseless tragedy. Bad things couldn't just happen to people; someone had to pay. The victims' families hoped that this lawsuit would be the answer, but Julia knew it would only give them something else to think about for a while, perhaps distribute some of their pain. It wouldn't alleviate it, though. The grief would outlive them all.

The judge looked at the parents first. "There is no doubt that what happened on February nineteenth at the Baptist church in Silverwood was a terrible tragedy. As a parent myself, I cannot fathom the world in which you have lived for the past months. However, the question before this court is whether Dr. Cates should remain a defendant in this case." She folded her hands on the desk. "I am persuaded that as a matter of law, Dr. Cates had no duty to warn or otherwise protect the victims in this set of circumstances. I reach this conclusion for several reasons. First, the facts do not assert and the plaintiffs do not allege that Dr. Cates had any specific knowledge of identifiable potential victims; second, the law does not impose a duty to warn except to clearly identifiable victims; and finally, as a matter of public policy, we must maintain the confidentiality of the psychiatrist-patient relationship unless there is a specific, identifiable threat which warrants the undermining of that confidentiality. Dr. Cates, by her testimony and her records and pursuant to the plaintiffs' own assertions, did not have a duty to warn or otherwise protect the victims in this case. Thus, I am dismissing her from the complaint, without prejudice."

The gallery went crazy. Before she knew it, Julia was on her feet and enfolded in congratulatory hugs by her defense team. Behind her, she could hear the journalists running for the doors and down the marble hallway. "She's out!" someone yelled.

Julia felt a wave of relief. Thank God.

Then she heard the children's parents crying behind her.

"How can this be happening?" one of them said loudly. "She should have known."

Frank touched her arm. "You should be smiling. We won."

She shot a quick glance at the parents, then looked away. Her thoughts trailed off into the dark woods of regret. Were they right? Should she have known?

"It wasn't your fault, and it's time you told people that. This is your opportunity to speak up, to--"

A crowd of reporters swarmed them.

"Dr. Cates! What do you have to say to the parents who hold you responsible--"

"Will other parents trust you with their children--"

"Can you comment on the report that the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office has taken your name off the roster of forensic psychiatrists?"

Frank stepped into the fray, reaching back for Julia's hand. "My client was just released from the lawsuit--"

"On a technicality," someone yelled.

While they were focused on Frank, Julia slipped to the back of the crowd and ran for the door. She knew Frank wanted her to make a statement, but she didn't care. She didn't feel triumphant. All she wanted was to be away from all this . . . to get back to real life.

The Zunigas were standing in front of the door, blocking her path. They were paler versions of the couple she'd once known. Grief had stripped them of color and aged them.

Mrs. Zuniga looked up at her through tears.

"She loved both of you," Julia said softly, knowing it wasn't enough. "And you were good parents. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise. Amber was ill. I wish--"

"Don't," Mr. Zuniga said. "Wishing hurts most of all." He put an arm around his wife and drew her close to him.

Silence fell between them. Julia tried to think of more to say, but all that was left was I'm sorry, which she'd said too many times to count, and "Good-bye." Holding her purse close, she eased around them, then left the courthouse.

Outside, the world was brown and bleak. A thick layer of smoke darkened the sky, obliterating the sun, matching her mood.

She got into her car and drove away. As she merged into traffic, she wondered if Frank had even noticed her absence. To him it was a game, albeit with the biggest stakes, and as the day's winner, he would be flying high. He would think about the victims and their families, probably tonight in his den, after a few Dewar's over ice. He would think about her, too, perhaps wonder what would become of a psychiatrist who'd so profoundly compromised her reputation with failure, but he wouldn't think about them all for long. He didn't dare.

She was going to have to put it behind her now, too. Tonight she'd lay in her lonely bed, listening to the surf, thinking how much it sounded like the beat of her heart, and she'd try again to get beyond her grief and guilt. She had to figure out what clue she'd missed, what sign she'd overlooked. It would hurt--remembering--but in the end she'd be a better therapist for all this pain. And then, at seven o'clock in the morning, she'd get dressed and go back to work.

Helping people.

That was how she'd get through this.

Girl crouches at the edge of the cave, watching water fall from the sky. She wants to reach for one of the empty cans around her, maybe lick the insides again, but she has done this too many times already. The food is gone. It has been gone for more moons than she knows how to keep track of. Behind her the wolves are restless, hungry.

The sky grumbles and roars. The trees shake with fear, and still the water drips down.

She falls asleep.

She wakes suddenly and looks around, sniffing the air. There is a strange scent in the darkness. It should frighten her, send her back into the deep, black hole, but she can't quite move. Her stomach is so tight and empty it hurts.

The falling water isn't so angry now; it is more of a spitting. She wishes she could see the sun.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Kristin Hannah is the bestselling author of many acclaimed novels, including On Mystic Lake, Between Sisters, Comfort & Joy, and The Things We Do For Love. She lives in the Pacific Northwest and on Kauai with her husband and son.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Magic Hour 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 402 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a long time fan of Kristin Hannah's. I've read everything she's written and unlike some multi-published authors, Hannah just gets better and better with each book she writes. And MAGIC HOUR is no exception. The title says it all---this book is pure MAGIC!! I don't like to read reviews that give away the plot and so I'm not going to comment on that except to say that this story blew me away. It was everything I'd come to expect (and love) from a Hannah novel--true emotion, deep characters--but it was also a story line so unique and fresh, I could not put the book down. If you've never read Kristin Hannah give yourself a huge treat with Magic Hour. And, if you're a Hannah fan like me, I'm sure you've already pre-ordered the book!! Another winner from an extremely talented writer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
All I can say is Wow!I picked this up in the bargain book section at Barnes and Noble figuring it was really inexpensive so if I didn't like it oh well. I could now say I would have paid full price for it if I had to. It is outstanding. One of my new favorite books. I spent an entire rainy Saturday reading this book and am glad I did. I could not stop reading. This book has everything Drama, family,heartbreak, friendships(old and new), and a little bit of romance mixed in. I felt like I knew these characters so well and the way the author describes the area they live in you feel like you have really visited there while reading this book. I was sad it was over. I have read Comfort and Joy by Kristin Hannah and also loved that book. I will now look for more of her novels.
harstan More than 1 year ago
The media and the parents of the victims and even the survivors hold child psychiatrist Dr. Julia Cates culpable after a teenage patient of three years Amber Zuniga went on a rampage killing four peers. However, no one holds Julia to task more than she does herself as she keeps looking over what she did, trying to figure out what she could have done different to prevent the tragedy. --- In between the Pacific and the Olympic National Forest, Rain Valley is a tiny insulated town, but has a problem. Chief of Police Ellie Barton pleads with her sister Julia to come to the northwest to help a mute little girl who came out of the nearby woods local assumption is the child was raised by wolves. Julia heads north to work with the child she names Alice. Local Dr. Max Cerrasin assists her as she tries to reach Alice and learn who her parents are while also rejecting the persistent courting advances of her new medical partner. --- MAGIC HOUR is a deep character driven tale that grips the audience once the depressed Julia leaves Los Angeles for the Pacific Northwest and never slows down until the final encounter. The exciting story line is driven by the emotional needs of Julia as much as by Alice. Who the child is and who her parents are lead to a fine mystery (similar to a real story from the early twentieth century) to a superb drama. --- Harriet Klausner
gina0929 More than 1 year ago
This was my first Kristin Hannah book, bought it online as a bargain book. I loved everything about it. I wanted the book to go on forever, and was sad when it ended. I look forward to reading more by this author.
NookBookerCT More than 1 year ago
I did not want this book to end. The subject matter is so different from anything I've read. Miss Hannah has yet to disappoint.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is truly one of the best books I have ever read in my life. It is now 5am, and I have yet to go to sleep because I simply could not put this down! I am a Kristin Hannah fan, but to say that she outdid herself on this novel is a huge understatement. There are hardly any books that make me cry, but Magic Hour had me almost sobbing in some parts, then had my heart exploding in others. Alice is so utterly lovable, and Hannah brought each relationship to life flawlessly. She is a true master at her craft. If you are an avid reader like I am, you know that there are certain books that you simply cannot put down, and that you don't want to end. Magic Hour touched me so much that I will always hold it dear to my heart.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and could not put it down. A little girl wanders out of the woods after years of trauma and abuse. Her life is put back together by a woman who is struggling with her own losses and sense of self. Supoorted by a small town, the characters overcome fear and relish in the vulnerbility of allowing love to happen. Beautiful story that honestly made me laugh out loud and read with tears running down my cheeks.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It kept me reading!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kind of slow in the beginning, fell in love with Alice.
lrvg_reads More than 1 year ago
The characters are endearing and you feel as though you are living through the trouble with them. The relationships and conflicts bring such emotion. Reommended highly...you won't be able to put the book down.
Kendra Vanwye More than 1 year ago
This is by far the best book i have ever read! You wont put it down one you start.
SFtechr05 More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book, however, the ending was a little flat. The story was well developed. I loved the characters and their relationships.
Cassy Parrott More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book, I never wanted to put it down! Kirsten is a wonderful writer, I would recommend her to anyone!
Debra Ponkala More than 1 year ago
Great book! I would highly recommend it. Keep the tissues handy as you will need them. Great for a book club.
noetic1 More than 1 year ago
Must read... This is the 3rd one of Kristin Hannah's books and probably the most intense, or equal to intensity as Firefly Lane. Wonderful author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
it was amazing. I bawled my eyes out. just read it.
keledina More than 1 year ago
Kristin Hannah is my new favorite author. What an interesting situation to resolve.
Kaytness More than 1 year ago
This is the first time I've ever written a review, but this book deserves one. It was so beautiful and heartwrenching. I could not put this book down and finished it in two nights. I will definitely read the rest of this author's books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great story. I am not one to shed tears for fiction but this story made me laugh, cry, and every emotion in between. I LOVED IT!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was recommended by a friend and I loved it! I couldn't put it down. I have never writen a review on a book before so that alone should tell you what I thought of it. It is a story about hardships, loss, and love. It made me laugh and cry and pulled me in as if I was part of the story. I haven't read a book that touched me so in a long long time.
Anonymous 7 days ago
Totally amazing book! Family values, good friends and the long road endured to help a girl through tradegy. 326 pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book! Had me crying, laughing, holding my breath and cheering. Kristin Hannah has an amazing ability to make you feel like you know each character.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book - almost done and I can't wait to see how this story resolves. Can't put it down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a beautiful story . You will fall in love with Alice while laughing and crying
Anonymous More than 1 year ago