Summary and book reviews of The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

The Rules of Magic

by Alice Hoffman

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman X
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2017, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2018, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag

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About this Book

Book Summary

An instant New York Times bestseller and Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick from beloved author Alice Hoffman—the spellbinding prequel to Practical Magic.

Find your magic.

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people's thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Yet, the children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the memorable aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.

Alice Hoffman delivers "fairy-tale promise with real-life struggle" (The New York Times Book Review) in a story how the only remedy for being human is to be true to yourself. Thrilling and exquisite, real and fantastical, The Rules of Magic is "irresistible…the kind of book you race through, then pause at the last forty pages, savoring your final moments with the characters" (USA TODAY, 4/4 stars).

Excerpt
The Rules of Magic

Once upon a time, before the whole world changed, it was possible to run away from home, disguise who you were, and fit into polite society. The children's mother had done exactly that. Susanna was one of the Boston Owenses, a family so old that the General Society of Mayflower Descendants and the Daughters of the American Revolution were unable to deny them admission to their exclusive organizations, despite the fact that they would have liked to close the door to them, locking it twice. Their original ancestor, Maria Owens, who had arrived in America in 1680, remained a mystery, even to her own family. No one knew who had fathered her child or could fathom how she came to build such a fine house when she was a woman alone with no apparent means of support. The lineage of those who followed Maria was equally dubious. Husbands disappeared without a trace. Daughters begat daughters. Children ran off and were never seen again.

In every generation there ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. We learn that the rules of magic are to harm no one, remember that what you give will be returned to you threefold, and fall in love whenever you can. Do Franny, Jet, and Vincent live by these rules? What happens when they break them? What set of rules would you live by?
  2. Make note of the part titles. What do the titles add to the narrative? Why do you think the author chose the titles she did?
  3. Alice Hoffman's novels are often woven with qualities that earn them a place in the genre of magical realism. Discuss how she achieves this writing style. What details do you notice she includes? What sources of inspiration does she draw from?
  4. When the Owens siblings visit Aunt Isabelle for the first time, she tells them a story about a cousin named...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Alice Hoffman's Rules of Magic is the long-awaited prequel to one of her most cherished novels, Practical Magic (1995). With the return of Bridget and Franny, Hoffman proves again that the true magic of her work is not the sorcery itself, but the relationships between families, siblings, and the rest of the people that she brings to her readers. Emotionally wrenching without becoming trite, Hoffman explores love and loss in a way that few others have come close to mastering.   (Reviewed by Michelle Anya Anjirbag).

Full Review (650 words).

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Media Reviews

Bookpage
It's clear why Hoffman is a favorite for fantasy readers: She creates interesting mythologies; she’s able to weave magic into the modern world; and she alludes to the magical properties of herbs and everyday items without over explaining them and over complicating her narratives.

USA Today (4/4 Stars)
Hoffman has conjured up another irresistible novel in The Rules of Magic. This is the kind of book you race through, then pause at the last 40 pages, savoring your final moments with the characters.

New York Times Book Review
[T]his is a novel that begins with the words, ‘Once upon a time,’ and its strength is a Hoffman hallmark: the commingling of fairy-tale promise with real-life struggle. The Owens children can’t escape who they are. Like the rest of us, they have to figure out the best way to put their powers to use.

Marie Claire
In this prequel to Practical Magic, Hoffman, a master of magical realism, draws us back into the spellbinding universe of the Owens family with gorgeous prose set against a backdrop of vivid imagery.

Newsday
The story unfolds in romantic and magical ways against the backdrop of 1960s, with the Stonewall riot, LSD in Central Park, Bob Dylan and Vietnam all making appearances. Hoffman will keep you guessing until the very end of the book how the Practical Magic generation fits in, a clever, heartbreaking finale.

NPR Books
Reading [The Rules of Magic] was like being caught in a current, floating along with a river's twists and turns, glimpsing familiarity and difference in varied measure before tumbling into something like the sea. I kept reading, not because I wanted to reach the end, but because I wanted to dwell in the honey-light of Hoffman's words. I wanted to hold these characters' hands... Hoffman's prose is as tender, dreamy and sweet as ever, laced with the sting of vinegar and broken glass.

Popsugar
Just in time for Halloween, Alice Hoffman brings us back to the world of the Owens family, whom we first met in Practical Magic. It's a world where magic exists and love is a curse. The Rules of Magic will transport you. An utter delight.

Kirkus Reviews
Real events like the Vietnam draft and Stonewall uprising enter the characters' family history as well as a stunning plot twist - delivering everything fans of a much-loved book could hope for in a prequel.

Library Journal
Hoffman weaves a spell….Readers who enjoy a little magic mixed in with their love stories…will relish this book.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The spellbinding story, focusing on the strength of family bonds through joy and sorrow, will appeal to a broad range of readers. Fans of Practical Magic will be bewitched.

Booklist
Readers who grew up with Lemony Snicket's Baudelaire children, or those who enjoyed the magical intrigue of Lev Grossman's Magicians trilogy, will adore this enchanting, engrossing, and exhilarating novel.

Author Blurb Jodi Picoult, New York Times-bestselling author of Small Great Things and Leaving Time
Reading an Alice Hoffman book is like falling into a deep dream where senses are heightened and love reigns supreme. The Rules of Magic is no exception—as I tumbled into the story of three siblings desperate for and cursed by love, I never wanted to awaken.

Reader Reviews

Betty Taylor

Love and Teen Witches
I have read several of Alice Hoffman’s books but this one was certainly different for me. I have not read “Practical Magic” so did not really know what to expect. While this book is a prequel to “Practical Magic”, it also stands alone. Ms. Hoffman ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Wise Women: Willfulness or Witchcraft?

Practical MagicWhether talking about Rules of Magic or its predecessor, Practical Magic, Hoffman always makes one thing clear about the Owens sisters – there is something different about them. The town is not quite sure whether to revile or fear them, but that never stops the community from turning to the Owens' unorthodox problem-solving methods if they have a need. The Owens women have special knowledge and power, something that simultaneously isolates them and gives them prestige. In short, they are witches; figures that constantly appear in many magical tales, fairy tales, and bits of folklore all over the world, often as old women who are meant to be feared.

Baba YagaHoffman isn't the first writer to draw on the play between witches, wise ...

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