Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman“Rules of Magic” by Alice Hoffman, New York : Simon & Schuster, 2017.

Have you ever seen the movie Practical Magic with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock?  An amazing and fun portrayal of standing by your loved ones in good times and bad, all tied together around a magical and cursed family.  What you may not know is that this movie is based on a book by Alice Hoffman also titled Practical Magic.  As is the case for many books turned into movies, many things were changed to make it a movie worth watching since books can go into a lot more detail and don’t need to keep up the pace that movies do to keep audience attention.  But the Owens family of heredity witches, that have been cursed in love by a spurned ancestor are all still the same.  Two little girl by the name of Sally and Gillian who go to live with their elderly aunts after their parents are killed is also the same.

While this novel, and movie, have been around for a long time Alice Hoffman has recently written a new novel about this family that tells the story of those two elderly aunts and how they came to be.  “Rules of Magic” begins in New York City in the sixties with three siblings whose mother has spent most of their lives trying to explain away their uniqueness’s and hid their Owens heritage from them.  But the weird rules she sets for them:  no walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic and never, ever fall in love, are so strange that they in and of themselves are a mystery worth solving.

When they are invited to visit their unknown Aunt Isabelle in a small town in Massachusetts where the Owens family is blamed for everything, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth behind their family.  The sisters will learn about curses and lost love while their brother, Vincent, will marvel at an unexpected fate leaving a legacy that comes full circle to the Owens house.  It was a wonderful surprise to discover that this story came full circle to a book and movie that readers might be familiar with.  Since the original novel by Alice Hoffman was published in 1995 and the movie came out in 1999, readers who pick up this novel are unlikely to connect the two until the very end when you find out what actually happened to bring Sally and Gillian into the aunts lives.

A thoroughly enjoyable novel from start to finish.  Experience life in New York City and Paris throughout the fifties, sixties and seventies.  Mayhem, magic and prejudices make for an entertaining read that lands in a surprising connection to a past favorite!

Susana Goldman is the Associate Director of Operations for the Alamance County Public Library.  She can be reached at (336) 290-8679 or sgoldman@alamancelibraries.org.