CRM Review: Alice Hoffman’s “The Rules of Magic”

The Rules of Magic

Alice Hoffman

October 10, 2017 | Simon & Schuster

Literary fiction | Magical realism fiction

In 1620, Maria Owens was charged with sorcery because she loved the wrong man, turning love into a curse for the Owens family that would be passed down for hundreds of years.

But the Owens family does have a magic in their blood. Even as later generations scatter and avoid it in an attempt to escape the curse, their magic comes through.

Hundreds of years after Maria, Susanna Owens has does her best to avoid the curse. Living in New York City as the 60’s begins to peak around the corner, she attempts to raise her three children with rules to avoid magic.

No walking in the moonlight. No red shoes. No wearing black. No cats. No candles. No books about magic. And NEVER, ever fall in love.

The three Owens children scoff at these rules. Headstrong, difficult Franny, with wild red hair and pale skin. who begins calling the birds at an early age. Shy, beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts. Charismatic Vincent, who charms everyone from birth without even trying.

When Franny turns 17, all three children are sent to visit their Aunt Isabelle, a right of passage observed for generations. In the small Massachusetts town where it all began with Maria, they start to understand who they truly are. Back in Manhattan, the three try desperately to avoid the family curse.

But can you escape love? Can you ever avoid the pull of love and fate?

Sigh (of deep contentment).

I needed this book.

The Rules of Magic, Alice Hoffman’s revisit to the Owens family (or introduction to them, since Practical Magic was released more than 30 years ago–EEK!) is perfectly timed, at least for me. I needed to reacquaint myself with the clan, and October is the without-a-doubt, exact, ideal, and precise time for a story of a witchy family.

–And, a little movie aside for me, every time I picked up The Rules of Magic  to read I heard Faith Hill singing “This Kiss.” It was such a strong, romantic scene in the movie, with that song in the background, that the Owens women and “This Kiss” go hand in hand, even if The Rules of Magic is not about Gillian and Sally.

Here’s the scene, in case you’re unfamiliar or just miss it:


Okay, back to the book.

The Rules of Magic is perfect storytelling, taking readers back to a different time, showing us the changes in the world while keeping us very involved in the lives of Franny, Jet, and Vincent. All three vow to never fall in love, but each finds love in their own time and in their own way. Readers watch them grow and learn, living through the heartbreak and heartaches, all of which are exacerbated by their magic abilities and the family curse.

Yes, the three Owens followed in The Rules of Magic are witches, but a lot of what happens to them is just the magic of ordinary life. Growing up. Falling in love. Avoiding love. Experiencing loss. Rebelling against family rules and absolutes in order to create a world that’s wholly theirs.  And finally, circling back to family and knowing what is important after all the adventures of youth.

After about three quarters of the book I started thinking that not much had happened, other than ordinary (although magical) life. But I couldn’t put the book down. And then, just a little a few pages later, I found myself crying. CRYING! (It’s not a surprise I was crying. I’m a crier. But it was surprising that I was crying when I was just thinking that nothing had happened). These characters got right under my skin and worked their way into my heart.

And it is a very character driven novel. Through these characters, Hoffman shows us life is magical, whether we have magic or not.  Rather than telling, she uses Franny, Jet, and Vincent to SHOW readers all the ups and downs of human existence — some brought to us by our own doing, others by fate and chance.

If you’ve never read Practical Magicdo not fret. Both books stand very much alone. The Rules of Magic is the story of three siblings, two of whom grow up to be the aunts in Practical Magicand it does explain how they came to raise Gillian and Sally.  At best I would say these books are related. Reading one is not contingent on reading the other, although it does add some enhancement!

I highly recommend The Rules of MagicIt’s a book that will leave you with a smile and a sigh of pure contentment.





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