Practical Magic

Author: Alice Hoffman

From the time of their parents’ death, sisters Gillian and Sally lived with their aunts, who–like all the Owens women before–have a reputation (deserved or not) of being witches, or something close. It might even be true. In any case, the fact is that odd things seem to happen around them, and that oddness is transmitted, at least in reputation, to the young sisters. So much so that they both, in their own way, do their best to escape as they reach adulthood: Gillian in her wanton string of fiascoes that leaves a trail of broken hearts across the western United States, Sally in the structured, proper raising of her two daughters–far away from the hint of magic. Little could they suspect that the very choices they make to avoid their past are what will draw them and their aunts together again . . . and possibly even reconcile them to the magic that runs deep in their family.

Practical Magic was a touching, beautiful story. I must admit that when I initially approached Alice Hoffman’s body of work, I expected a straightforward fantasy. I couldn’t be more pleasantly surprised to be wrong. Instead of your typical fantasy, each of Hoffman’s works that I’ve read so far (and I have a lot to enjoy in the future) tells a haunting, lyrical, and distinctly human story. While some hints of what might be magic do underlie the plot at points, the true magic is the spell Hoffman seems to place on the reader. She writes beautiful stories that touch on real human issues in an honest, insightful style. My sole complaint regarding Practical Magic is the lack of standard chapter divisions; there are some section breaks, but the sections are too long for me to usually read at one sitting, forcing me to break at some random paragraph break. Still, that’s a minor fault overall, and I would still definitely recommend (to an adult audience–18+ I would say) Practical Magic as a beautiful, haunting, and memorable novel.

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