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Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Practical Magic

Repeat author
Alice Hoffman is back at Book of the Month – other BOTMs include The Marriage of Opposites and The Rules of Magic and Magic Lessons.

by Alice Hoffman

Quick take

It's the cult classic that started it all. Enter the lives of two witchy women attempting to escape their cursed fates.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Feminist


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NowAMovie

    Now a movie

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_3rdSeries

    Third in series

Why I love it

Isabel Sterling
Author, These Witches Don't Burn

Growing up, I read everything I could get my hands on, the more magical the better. Yet on the weekends I spent with my dad, finding a quiet space to read could be tricky. When I couldn’t read, I gravitated to my second favorite love—the Practical Magic movie. For years, every time I visited my dad, I hid myself away and played my recorded VHS, disappearing into a world of magic and loss and sisterhood.

The story follows Sally and Gillian Owens, descendants of powerful women. Women the town blamed when anything went wrong. Orphaned as children, the sisters move in with their elderly aunts, who soothe neighborhood accusations of witchcraft with brownies for breakfast. Fear of the family curse sends the sisters down very different paths as adults, but when things go wrong, their sisterly bond is the only thing that can save them.

Or at least... that’s what happens in the movie. Having watched the film at least 100 times over the past twenty years, it’s overridden my memory of Alice Hoffman’s 1995 novel. I remember Teen Me being shocked at some of the differences between the two, but enough years have passed that I think it’s time to revisit the novel that launched a cult classic. If you’re ready to bask in the spooky season this October, I can think of no better read than Practical Magic. I’ll be picking up a copy to read again, too, and I hope you’ll join me.

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For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape.

One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic...

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Get an early look from the first pages of Practical Magic.

Member thoughts

All (4411)
All (4411)
Love (2235)
Like (1821)
Dislike (355)
4469 ratings
  • 50% Love
  • 41% Like
  • 8% Dislike
  • Urbana , IL

    This is my favorite book of all time! It’s so beautifully crafted, and the story and characters will stay with you forever. The movie didn’t do it any justice. Read the book! It’ll change your life!

  • Parkville, MO

    I loved reading this book! I have watched the movie at least a thousand times, but realized very quickly that I was an Alice Hoffman fan after reading a few of her other novels. I couldn’t put it down

  • Caledonia , MI

    Having seen the movie first... the book is amazing, and beautifully different. Hoffman writes eloquently and uniquely. Falling in love with the Owen’s family and so excited to read the prequels next!

  • Woodland Park , CO

    The omniscient narration and uneven characterizations are hard to connect to in places however I love the book, the themes, sense of love and family. The setting the ghost the sisters’ powers so cool!

  • Justice, IL

    What a lovely story! I read the series in order, as I felt I should. I’m grateful that this book was so sweet and mellow-nothing like the movie. Ms. Hoffman is my new favorite author! Loved them all!!

  • Milford, CT

    Having grown up watching the movie I thought I knew what to expect...I was surprised! The book is so much better. I loved seeing the friendships of love & support grow between sisters. 100% recommend!

  • Hudson, NH

    This book has always held a special place in my heart, and I simply needed to have the BOTM edition to add to my shelf! Having met the author on multiple occasions, she sure knows how to tell a story.

  • Henderson, NC

    Have always loved the movie, but the book is so much better!! Alice Hoffman makes you fall in love with magic and the Owens women from the first page! So glad I grabbed a copy for the 25th anniversary

  • San Antonio , TX

    If you're coming to this book as a fan of the movie adaptation I don't recommend thinking that they're one in the same. The book is much darker, but here you'll feel MORE connected to the characters!

  • Knoxville, TN

    I’ve loved the movie since seeing it in theaters in the 90s, so I’m actually surprised it took me soo long to read the book. You will instantly fall in love with the entire magical Owens family.

  • Columbus, MS

    A classic! I adore the winding lyrical qualities of this story, its thoughtful examination of womanhood and the resilience of its characters, and its beautiful, subtle magic... what’s not to love?!

  • Framingham, MA

    Whimsical writing and magic filled prose with meandering sentences. Definitely different from the movie but equally satisfying. I love the Owens sisters, the aunts and their captivating strangeness.

  • Klein, TX

    Sally and Gillian are like the sisters you would describe with bipolar personalities. I feel more connected to Gillian for some odd reason though. I truly love this book and how well written it is!

  • Martinsburg , WV

    What a treat this series is! I read this after ML and TRoM, and wish there were more than three books in the series. Each of the Owens women is unique in her own way, and the writing is delightful.

  • Demotte , IN

    The story about Sally and her kids trying to fit in society and just be accepted and putting a magical add in just upscales the whole book! I think it makes it that much more of a fantastic read!

  • Somerset, KY

    I've wanted to read Practical Magic for a long time, and I'm so glad I did! The author is such a great writer, and the book went by super fast (when I had time to read, lol). Definitely recommend!

  • Houston, TX

    The book was absolutely lovely, and while I would have enjoyed more magic, I found the dynamics enthralling. I love the little tid bits of magic that were there, but the magic of sisters sold me.

  • Greenville, PA

    This book gave insight into what was going going on inside the minds of the other characters. This is an amazing book for women. It resonated with me especially having a sister and growing up.

  • Waterford, MI

    I love Alice Hoffman’s unique prose - elegantly transitioning narrators and bringing a colorful world to life. Every character you can relate to in some way, and changes each time you re-read

  • Bastrop, TX

    One of my favorite books of all time. I love the descriptions of spells and plants which come out like poetry. Alice Hoffman weaves her own spell when she describes scents and colors and food.

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