Incantation

Author: Alice Hoffman

Everything in Estrella deMadrigal’s life is as it should be; her family is well respected, she has a wonderful relationship with her mother, life is comfortable, and her best friend Catalina is like a sister. It doesn’t seem anything could disturb her comfortable life until a book-burning signals the beginning of some frightening changes. Worse still, Catalina seems to delight in the burning, and somehow, things begin to be different between them. They begin to keep secrets from each other. Little could Estrella know that other secrets, ones her family has kept from her for her entire life, will change how she views herself and the world around her forever.

Incantation is the first Alice Hoffman story I’ve read, and I will absolutely be reading more in the future. This breathtaking, moving plunge into the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition is beautiful; it treats honestly a topic that is excruciating, and it draws out vital universal truths in a manner that is memorable. Hoffman’s storytelling is spare, poetic, and emotionally charged, more so than you might think possible in such a small volume. I cried while reading this, yet felt a strong sense of resolution at the end–even though the end itself is uncertain and painful. Incantation is definitely a recommended story–particularly for those interested in the Spanish Inquisition or the life of Marranos in Spain during that time–just be prepared for an emotional overload.

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