Review: Practical Magic – Alice Hoffman

practical magicThe bestselling author of Second Nature, Illumination Night and Turtle Moon now offers her most fascinating and tantalizingly accomplished novel yet — a winning tale that amply confirms Alice Hoffman’s reputation not only as a genius of the vivid scene and unforgettable character but as one of America’s most captivating storytellers.

When the beautiful and precocious sisters Sally and Gillian Owens are orphaned at a young age, they are taken to a small Massachusetts town to be raised by their eccentric aunts, who happen to dwell in the darkest, eeriest house in town. As they become more aware of their aunts’ mysterious and sometimes frightening powers — and as their own powers begin to surface — the sisters grow determined to escape their strange upbringing by blending into “normal” society.

But both find that they cannot elude their magic-filled past. And when trouble strikes — in the form of a menacing backyard ghost — the sisters must not only reunite three generations of Owens women but embrace their magic as a gift — and their key to a future of love and passion. Funny, haunting, and shamelessly romantic, Practical Magic is bewitching entertainment — Alice Hoffman at her spectacular best.

Rating: 3/5

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in town…It didn’t matter what the problem was – lightning, locusts or death by drowning. It didn’t matter if the situation could be explained by logic, or science, or plain bad luck. As soon as there was a hint of trouble or the slightest misfortune, people began pointing fingers and placing blame.

And thus begins Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic. I have yet to see the movie, but on the whole, I enjoyed the book.

The author is both the queen of magical realism, and unlikeable female characters that you still can’t help but root for. Gillian is flighty and selfish, Sally is stubborn and intractable – and they end up with one helluva mess on their hands when Gillian appears on her sister’s doorstep out of the blue one day, having not seen her for over a decade.

What had she thought, that love was a toy, something easy and sweet, just to play with? Real love was dangerous, it got you from the inside and held on tight, and if you didn’t let go fast enough you might be willing to do anything for its sake. 

The book starts out with the sisters’ early childhood, and progresses through their fraught teenage years and onto their separate adulthoods. Magic abounds – in their aunts’ home of weirdness and wonder, in their own innate abilities to sense something is wrong, and in the very world around them.

Love is a central theme in the novel. The love that we think we want, the things we will do for love, the love we think we don’t deserve. And while the ending borders slightly on cheesy – with a dramatic case of instalove in Sally’s case –  I could appreciate a HEA for all after the events of the novel.

Hoffman has a very particular writing style, and there always seems to be a distance between yourself and the characters, but she does magical realism, female characters, emotional strife and unlikely happy endings very well.

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6 thoughts on “Review: Practical Magic – Alice Hoffman

  1. I loved the movie, but then again, I saw it in my babyhood days, so I don’t know how I’d feel about it today 🙂 Never read the book, though, which is strange… Huh. Love your review.

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