Practical Magic (Practical Magic, #1) by Alice Hoffman (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s review
The original, and still the best in my opinion, book in this saga features the Owens witches as they face tragedy, grow up in a society where they are shunned because of their family name, and seek their own paths to love and happiness.
My first exposure to the series was the movie that came out in the 90s, and I admit I pictured Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman in those roles as I read this book for the first time. I enjoyed the byplay between the sisters, as they sought to have normal, ordinary lives without use of spells, charms or hexes they learned at the feet of their aunts.
Sally, the oldest, has always been the responsible one. She moves her daughters away from their small town to give them a chance at normalcy, and denies all aspects of her past, as she works hard to provide a life for her daughters, and prevent herself from falling in love again. Gillian loves and leaves too many behind, until she hooks up with a violent, criminal boyfriend who forces her to use a little of the herbal remedies she learned from the aunts, and once spurned. Unfortunately, her “remedy” backfires, leading to her arriving on Sally’s doorstep and reintroducing the two to a world they tried to leave behind.
Sally and Gillian were always extraordinary, and simple denial of their heritage and gifts is not enough to separate these parts of themselves, because eventually, the past always catches up. Eventually, the grown sisters have to turn to the aunts to extract them from trouble, and in the process gain an acceptance of who they always were.
This is a beautiful story, and I can easily see how it inspired a series, which explores the characters of the “aunts” and the multiple generations of this family as they deal with their legacy. The author switches back and forth between viewpoints frequently, but never in such a way to make it difficult to follow, as the plot continues at a natural pace that allows the reader insight into sometimes complicated characters.
While the novel is somewhat different than the movie, there is enough similarity between the two to satisfy most fans. While this book contains elements of the supernatural, it is more or less a coming-of-age story with family drama and romance in plentiful supply. I recommend it to readers across multiple genres and award it four stars.