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Magic Lessons: The Prequel to Practical Magic

Review

Magic Lessons: The Prequel to Practical Magic

I have interviewed Alice Hoffman before, and I know that she is not a witch. But how can one be completely sure? What good witch would announce to the world that she is exactly that?

Hoffman’s otherworldly stories are so beauteous, so airy and serious, and so mesmerizingly audacious that I cannot help but think that she is from another planet. There are many authors who write fantasy these days, who write about love and potions, powers and spirits. But there are none who do it quite the way that Hoffman does. MAGIC LESSONS brings us back to a family that she has written about in two previous books, and now at least we have an inkling of where those characters’ inherent witchiness and wonderfulness have come from. It’s an origin story like no other.

"Hoffman’s language moves along in the fashion of an expert storyteller. Her wordcraft is perfect, her love and celebration of women complete.... Read MAGIC LESSONS. We all could use some during this dark time."

The Owens family has been discussed in both PRACTICAL MAGIC and THE RULES OF MAGIC. Their matriarch, Maria Owens, is a witch borne of a mother who valued lustful, soulful love above any other, particularly maternal love. And so Maria goes off into the world, to be taken in by a witch, taught a great deal and then shipped off in a valuable deal arranged by her rascal of a father. She ends up on a tropical island where she picks up additional skills and then becomes overwhelmed with a love similar to that which took her mother away from her.

Then it is off to Salem with a man who is as much of a rascal as her father, using bewitchment to push her hard into a love relationship that cannot last. When she gets there, she unveils a curse that will affect her family’s lineage forever. She learns the lessons of both magic and love, and realizes that maybe her mother was on to something. Love brings joy and pain in equal measure, and so it goes down the line through the Owens family century by century. This is not Maria’s intention, but…well, you know, DNA and all.

It’s fall, and we’ve all had enough of the panic of the pandemic. The news of the world is terrifying and uncertain, and I’m going to assume that you, like me, need comfy blankets and good books to help get through all the twists and turns of our modern life. Alice Hoffman is one of those writers whose books make you feel as if you have come home --- to yourself, to a sense of joy, sorrow, confidence and fear, a sense of humanity that lies deep within your soul and makes you feel as if you are utterly and undeniably alive. Alice is one letter off from Alive, and I’m not surprised. If there are any living authors whose every word is perfection --- like the perfect bedtime story, the perfect scary story, the perfect positive philosophical uplifter --- one writer who is ever truly alive in her renderings is none other than Alice Hoffman, the Queen of Metaphysical Fiction.

MAGIC LESSONS takes us back to a time when women are being oppressed for their inherent skills, expressed through the expanse of their hearts and the breadth of their souls. Maria Owens is a character for the ages --- she, like so many women of our culture, is vilified for her abilities. It is a painful lesson to see that not much has changed for anyone who is born of purpose and finds a way in life to uphold that purpose. Women have only pedantic and very earth-bound purposes, as far as the Salem community is concerned. But Maria stays true to herself, a struggle to which we can relate all too well. Maria is all of us --- knowing and powerful but sometimes incapable of motivating her abilities to stop bad things from happening. She is a marvel and seemingly indestructible, but her adventures will surprise, delight and destroy you all at the same time.

Hoffman’s language moves along in the fashion of an expert storyteller. Her wordcraft is perfect, her love and celebration of women complete. This is another story in a long line of tales about tough and provocative females that will leave itself imprinted on your own heart for the rest of your days.

Read MAGIC LESSONS. We all could use some during this dark time.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on October 23, 2020

Magic Lessons: The Prequel to Practical Magic
by Alice Hoffman