by Alice Hoffman (Goodreads Author)
Fans of the heartwarming movie Practical Magic starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman will quickly be swept up in the story of the lives and times of their elder relatives, Franny, Jet, and Vincent. This book was a choice for my local book club, and though I was familiar with the movie I had not before read any of the author’s books.
I was quickly drawn into the story of the three siblings, each so different, but united by unusual abilities and a family curse that threatens any of their family to find true love. The pages of this somewhat lengthy 366 page novel follows their journeys from sheltered children of yuppie parents in 1960s New York, living in denial of the family secrets, to discovering their “family gifts” and coming into their own during a background of civil unrest, sexual exploration, and shadows of war on the horizon.
Hoffman effortlessly weaves her story into the history of the moment, showcasing her characters in realistic situations inspired by the setting. She demonstrates a depth of understanding of the time period, as well as of the native flora and fauna that play their own role in the plot.
What struck me most was perhaps the fact that though the book was sprinkled through with herbal remedies and “folk wisdom” from the pages of the family Grimoire, as well as allusions to the family history associated with the Salem Witch Trials, is that The Rules is less about mystics and witchcraft, and more about these ordinary, extraordinary individuals as they attempt to live their lives.
Hoffman, though detailing incidents of magic powers and lore about witches and witchcraft, focuses her attention more in sharing the hopes, dreams, and doubts of her characters. This allows the reader to see beyond the enchantment of the paranormal, to the people affected. While there is enough “magic” left to please diehard fans of the supernatural, the core story is an epic recounting of the trials, loves and losses associated with these very human characters.
I would recommend this book not only to fans of paranormal stories, but also of romance and drama.