Thanks to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for providing me with a digital galley of this book – all opinions are my own!
The summer had started them thinking: If they were not like everyone else, who, then, were they?
Y’all, my love for Alice Hoffman runs deep. I’ve been reading her books since high school, and she writes magical realism like no one else. I recently re-read Practical Magic (Read my review HERE.) so that I would be ready to read The Rules of Magic, a prequel to Practical Magic, out today. If you loved Practical Magic, or even just liked it, I can almost guarantee you’re going to love this one. It is wonderfully magical, perfect for fall, and has more suspense than I’m used to from Hoffman. I absolutely loved it.
In Practical Magic, Gillian and Sally live with their aunts, Franny and Jet, after their parents die. They spend much of the book denying their ancestry and both being fascinated by and trying to ignore the strange things the aunts do to help the women in their small town. The Rules of Magic is about Franny and Jet, their childhood, and how they came to be the women of Practical Magic. Franny, Jet, and their brother, Vincent, live in New York City, where their mother sets strict rules for them. But once a year, they visit their aunt Isabelle in a small Massachusetts town where their family has lived for centuries, the house on Magnolia Street. They, too, are trying to escape the Owens’ family curse, where magic rules and love leads to misfortune. But as Franny and Jet grow up, and Vincent makes his own way, they discover that you can’t outrun your destiny.
This is more blatantly magical than the first book, where magic is talked about and hinted at, and I have to say that I loved that. I loved seeing exactly what the Owens siblings were capable of, and how they dealt with that from youth into adulthood. I don’t want to say that I liked this better than Practical Magic . . . but I think I did. The characters are so well-written I felt like I knew them, and I wanted to hug all three siblings and help them somehow. I also really appreciated the added suspense in this novel. Hoffman is a beautiful writer, and I will read anything she writes, but The Rules of Magic contains an element of suspense that she doesn’t usually include, and it worked really well. The beginning story is interesting and will keep your attention because of the characters, but the end of the book will have you reading as fast as possible to find out what happens.
Like in her other books, Hoffman sticks with some tried and true themes: family is family, being an outsider is hard, and being true to yourself is important. She uses these in a lot of her books, but never feel tired because she introduces new ideas in every story, and this one felt fresh too. I think she takes a lot of things from her own life and weaves them into her stories. Hoffman used to be notoriously private, preferring people to just read her books and ignore her, leaving her alone at home. If you read The Rules of Magic closely, that theme of the importance of home is loud and clear. No matter where the characters go, or what they go through, they always go back home. The house on Magnolia Street draws everyone back in, and remaining close to home becomes very important to all of the Owens women.
The Rules of Magic is one of Hoffman’s best works yet and, selfishly, I hope she writes more about the Owens family, because I cannot get enough. This is great all year, but especially perfect for your nightstand in October!