One of the reasons that I attend several book clubs is for motivation to try new genres and authors. Although I’ve read some books in the past that would be considered paranormal, I don’t know that I would have chosen to read The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman unless it had been a book club pick. It isn’t AT ALL what I expected.
This book is a prequel to Practical Magic, for which there is also a movie that I’ve never seen. Possibly it was the picture on the movie ad that made me expect The Rules of Magic would be light, autumnal entertainment. Not so; in fact, tears came to my eyes countless times in the reading. Yes, the blurb DOES mention “loss,” but I just didn’t anticipate the feelings this book would evoke.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many paranormal elements to the story, especially as the children…Franny, Jet, and Vincent break more and more of their mother’s rules aimed at protecting them from their history and connections to magic. No walks in the moonlight, no black clothing, and no cats, just to name a few! Once their mother and father allow them to visit their aunt, however, things really start to devolve. Over time, they eventually break most of the rules they’ve been taught, including warnings against falling in love.
Before I get to those “basic human truths,” or BHTs (not to be confused with that suspect additive, BHT :) I want to mention that Ms. Hoffman’s use of setting…both place and time is excellent. The Northeastern U.S. with its change of seasons affords wonderful atmosphere, and I felt a comfortable familiarity with the times in which the children grow up and try their hands at being adults, the 1960’s and 1970’s. Now, for those nuggets of humanity that even the witches and wizards in this book experience:
“…forgetting her loss would be worse than the loss itself.” (p. 231)
“…when you truly love someone and they love you in return, you ruin your lives together.” (p. 254)
“I just do the best I can to face what life brings. That’s the secret, you know. That’s the way you change your fate.” (p. 258)
“Life is a mystery, and it should be so, for the sorrow that accompanies being human and the choices one will have to make are a burden, too heavy for most to know before their time comes.” (p. 266)
“It is simply the way of the world to lose everything you have ever loved. In this, we are like everyone else.” (p. 297)
“Well, we can’t really know our parents, can we?…Even for those with the sight, parents are unfathomable creatures.” (p. 331)
“But rules were never the point. It was finding out who you were.” (p. 365)
“Know that the only remedy for love is to love more.” (p. 366)
The book closes with unexpected developments and a new set of rules, one of which I know from my own life: “Always leave out seed for the birds when the first snow falls.” I thoroughly enjoyed this story and look forward to reading others by Alice Hoffman!
Hoffman, Alice. The Rules of Magic: A Novel (The Practical Magic Series Book 1). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.
To end this post, I’m including a link to a lovely song, “A Case of You,” by Joni Mitchell taken from the soundtrack of the movie, “Practical Magic,” which I plan to watch, someday very soon.
If you’ve read this book or others by the author, please share some of your thoughts in the comments!