“A hauntingly beautiful—and imagined—origin story to The Scarlet Letter.” —People

Laurie Lico Albanese is an award-winning novelist and journalist. In Hester, her acclaimed 2022 retelling of The Scarlet Letter from Hester Prynne’s point of view, Albanese brings Hester’s voice to life in a compelling tale that asks who was the real Hester Prynne, and what if she could tell her own story?

Answering a centuries-long literary mystery, Hester gives life, power, and voice to the woman Hawthorne cast into the role of scorned adulteress, and offers a fresh and empowered perspective on the source of her scarlet letter.

Illuminating the life of nineteenth century women alongside the Salem witch trials and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s emerging career, Hester is a rich tale about the price a woman pays for creativity and independence, and the many ways sisterhood is important to a woman’s survival in every age.

Hester is an Audible Best Books of 2022, an IndieNext and Canadian and American Librarians October 2022 selection, a Gillian Flynn Best Books of Fall 2022, a Book of the Month club selection, and a longlist finalist in the Goodreads Best Books of the Year.

Albanese’s novel Stolen Beauty, about Gustav Klimt’s famous portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer (aka the lady in gold) was praised by the Wall Street Journal as “a work of art itself.” 

Albanese is a recipient of a Catherine R. Dodge Foundation Visiting Fellowship to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, a Hadassah-Brandeis Research Award, and a New Jersey State Council of the Arts Fellowship in Fiction Writing. She teaches creative memoir writing at Montclair State University and has taught at Wager College, and the Stonecoast Summer Writing Program at the University of Southern Maine. Her novels have been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese and soon, Croatian. She lives with her husband in Montclair, NJ, where they raised their two grown children.




Laurie's Featured Titles

Hester: A Novel

St. Martin’s Press |

Historical Fiction, Feminist Retelling

Book of the Month club, Indie Next, American and Canadian Librarians October 2022 selection, Gillian Flynn recommends on The Today Show

A vivid reimagining of Hester Prynne and Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, and a journey into the haunting legacy of the Salem Witch Trials that illuminates the price of creativity and freedom for women in every age.

Isobel Gamble, 19-year-old seamstress and embroiderer, is carrying generations of secrets when she flees debtor’s prison and Scotland in 1829 with her apothecary husband, Edward. Only days after they’ve landed in Salem’s bustling seaport, Edward abruptly joins a ship as a medic––leaving Isobel penniless and alone in a strange country, forced to make her way by any means possible.

When she meets a young Nathaniel Hawthorne, the two are instantly drawn to one other: Nat is a man haunted by ancestors who sent innocent women to the gallows, while Isobel is an unusually gifted needleworker troubled by her own strange talents. As the weeks pass and her husband’s safe return grows unlikely, Nat and Isobel grow dangerously closer. Together they are a muse and a dark storytellerthe enchanter and the enchanted. But which is which, and who is in control of what happens next?

In this sensuous and hypnotizing tale, a young immigrant woman grapples with our country’s complicated past, and learns that America’s ideas of freedom and liberty often fall short of their promise. Interwoven with Isobel and Nathaniel’s story is a vivid interrogation of who gets to be a “real” American in the first half of the 19th century, a depiction of the early days of the Underground Railroad in New England, and atmospheric interstitials that capture the long history of “unusual” women being accused of witchcraft. Meticulously researched yet evocatively imagined, Laurie Lico Albanese’s Hester is a timeless tale of art, ambition, and desire that examines the roots of female creative power and the men who try to shut it down.

Book of the Month clubHistorical Fiction, The Scarlet Letter, Female Author, Feminist Retelling

Stolen Beauty: A Novel

Atria Books |

“A powerful and important tale of love and war, art and family…I was transported.” —Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author

“Albanese artfully weaves Adele’s story with Maria’s harrowing life under the Nazis, but it’s hard to read Stolen Beauty without seeing ugly echoes in today’s headlines. Seven decades after World War II, have we learned nothing?” —USA TODAY

From the dawn of the twentieth century to the devastation of World War II, this exhilarating novel of love, war, art, and family gives voice to two extraordinary women and brings to life the true story behind the creation and near destruction of Gustav Klimt’s most remarkable paintings.

In the dazzling glitter of 1900 Vienna, Adele Bloch-Bauer—young, beautiful, brilliant, and Jewish—meets painter Gustav Klimt. Wealthy in everything but freedom, Adele embraces Klimt’s renegade genius as the two awaken to the erotic possibilities on the canvas and beyond. Though they enjoy a life where sex and art are just beginning to break through the façade of conventional society, the city is also exhibiting a disturbing increase in anti-Semitism, as political hatred foments in the shadows of Adele’s coffee house afternoons and cultural salons.

Nearly forty years later, Adele’s niece Maria Altmann is a newlywed when the Nazis invade Austria—and overnight, her beloved Vienna becomes a war zone. When her husband is arrested and her family is forced out of their home, Maria must summon the courage and resilience that is her aunt’s legacy if she is to survive and keep her family—and their history—alive.

Will Maria and her family escape the grip of Nazis’ grip? And what will become of the paintings that her aunt nearly sacrificed everything for?

Impeccably researched and a “must-read for fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun” (Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author), Stolen Beauty intertwines the tales of two remarkable women across more than a hundred years. It juxtaposes passion and discovery against hatred and despair, and shines a light on our ability to love, to destroy, and above all, to endure.

The Miracles of Prato

William Morrow |

“Like Fra Filippo’s paintings, this love story, set in one of the most intriguing historical periods, is suffused with clear, warm color and fine attention to detail.”
—Debra Dean, author of The Madonnas of Leningrad

A vibrant and enthralling historical novel about art and passion, The Miracles of Prato by Laurie Albanese and Laura Morowitz brings Italy in the era of the Medici to glorious life—as it tells the story of an illicit love affair between the renowned painter Fra Filippo Lippi and his muse, a beautiful convent novitiate. A magnificent blend of fact, historical color, emotion, and invention, The Miracles of Prato is a novel that will delight the many fans of Tracy Chavalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and Susan Vreeland’s Girl in Hyacinth Blue.

Blue Suburbia

Harper Perrennial |

Blue Suburbia is a searing memoir so fresh, original, and honest that it will break your heart and renew your faith in the human spirit.

With each spare stroke of her pen, Laurie Lico Albanese paints a vivid portrait of the blue-collar landscape of her childhood — rusted swing sets, auto body shops, greasy hands, home improvements — taking readers along for the wild, treacherous ride that leads to her escape. Her mother may stand silently at the sink year after year, or lie in the basement weeping, but Albanese is determined to flee the deadening certainty of her parents’ lives. Her story does not disappoint us.

By turns haunting, hilarious, tragic, and romantic, Blue Suburbia is the chronicle of a determined young woman who overcomes family limitations, socio-economic obstacles, and personal fears to build a happy — and blessedly ordinary — life. Written entirely in free verse, Blue Suburbia‘s cadence is a steady, rhythmic heartbeat, pulsing with pain, rebellion, love, and triumph. This is the story many of us might tell, if we had the courage.



Novels that update myths, fairy tales, and classic works of literature invite authors and readers to bring women’s voices and experiences to the foreground, often with empowering results. In this talk we consider Virginia Woolf’s call for women to write female-centered stories, use Hester and A Room of One’s Own as our introduction to the power of feminist retellings, discuss the robust heroes of Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet, Natalie Hayne’s A Thousand Ships and Madeline Miler’s Circe. Through examples, conversation, and guided writing exercises (if desired) we examine modern retellings through a feminist perspective and consider how stories change when told by someone outside the dominant power system.

All talks include images and writing exercises if desired.

HESTER PRYNNE: WHY WE STILL LOVE HER | Using Fiction, Drama, Essay, and Poetry to Stand up for Women and Girls

Hester Prynne is America’s original bad-ass single mother; she stood up to the men who cast her out, and wore her scarlet letter not as a badge of shame but as a symbol of her creative resistance. This talk considers ideals of womanhood, motherhood, and female purity/frailty that began in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, became rigidly enforced in Puritan times, and still reverberate in laws and labels today. The stories of Hester and other female resistors in fiction and in the news can be used to challenge labels that denigrate female power, creativity, independence, intuition, and equality. We are all Hester Prynne, and as women we can speak with a united voice. This talk includes writing prompts.

All talks include images and writing exercises if desired.


HESTER PRYNNE FINALLY HAS HER SAY | Inviting Marginalized Characters Into the Narrative

Fiction inspired by classics invites us to expand our vision of the original story—to turn the prism of what is already on the page and expose a new dimension to a familiar narrative, a new framework or point of view. Perhaps the enslaved person will tell the story instead of the enslaver. The woman instead of the man. The conquered instead of the conqueror. And we will see everything—including the history of power, ownership, voice, and dominance—anew.

How can we write others with sensitivity and respect, giving voice to the disenfranchised?  This talk considers Hester Prynne as our scorned American Eve—she doesn’t have her own voice in The Scarlet Letter, but she narrates her own choices in Hester, and befriends other marginalized immigrants, formerly enslaved people and their descendants, clerks, servants, and those scarred by the 1692 Salem Witch Trials. How do Isobel Gamble (Hester) and others come to life in Hester, and how can students and writers recognize and invite marginalized characters into their narratives?

All talks include images and writing exercises if desired.


WITCH TRIALS | In Fiction and in Life, Then and Now

The 1692 Salem Witch Trails still horrify and fascinate, and in 2022 the Scottish government finally pardoned the thousands of women condemned and executed as witches in the years 1563 to 1736. This talk considers the forces leading up to the Salem trials, the ramifications of  “witch” accusation in the lives of Puritan women and their families, how King James VI shares blame for the New England witch trials, the hundreds of women and girls who were released when the court of Oyer and Terminer was terminated, the brutal role Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ancestor played in the Salem trials, how the so-called First Indian War in 17th century Maine caused PTSD and the ensuing hysteria that resulted in the witch trials, and the legacy of witch trials in fiction and current events today.

All talks include images and writing exercises if desired.


WRITING MEMOIR | What's Bad in Life is Good on the Page

If you have survived something in your life (and who hasn’t?), memoir is the opportunity to make yourself the hero of your own story. This talk considers powerful memoirs such as Tara Westover’s Educated, Javier Zamora’s Solito, Jesmyn Ward’s Men We Reaped, Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House, and pieces by David Sedaris, to explore how heartbreak, struggle, love, loss, and courage can be turned into works of art, thus taking tales of trauma and transforming them into stories of triumph. The author’s own memoir in verse, Blue Suburbia: Almost a Memoir, may also be discussed. Guided writing exercises may also be included in this talk.


Collaging & Klimt: A Hands-On Workshop & Book Talk


Memoir Writing: Turning Life Into Art


Teaching Writing in Community Settings & Addressing Issues of Trauma


Historical Fiction & Feminist Heroines

Resources for Book Clubs

Upcoming Events

Honors, Awards & Recognition

American Librarians Top 10 | Hester, October 2022
Hadassah-Brandeis Institute Research Grant Awardee
NJ State Council in the Arts Fellowship in Fiction Writing
Book of the Month club, Indie Next
American and Canadian Librarians October 2022 selection
Gillian Flynn recommends on The Today Show.

Media Kit

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