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Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Fantasy

Practical Magic

Repeat author

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

by Alice Hoffman

Excellent choice

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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

    Feminist

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NowAMovie

    Now a movie

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_3rdSeries

    Third in series

Synopsis

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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Free sample

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

Superstition

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in town. If a damp spring arrived, if cows in the pasture gave milk that was runny with blood, if a colt died of colic or a baby was born with a red birthmark stamped onto his cheek, everyone believed that fate must have been twisted, at least a little, by those women over on Magnolia Street. It didn’t matter what the problem was—lightning, or locusts, or a death by drowning. It didn’t matter if the situation could be explained by logic, or science, or plain bad luck. As soon as there was a hint of trouble or the slightest misfortune, people began pointing their fingers and placing blame. Before long they’d convinced themselves that it wasn’t safe to walk past the Owens house after dark, and only the most foolish neighbors would dare to peer over the black wrought-iron fence that circled the yard like a snake.

Inside the house there were no clocks and no mirrors and three locks on each and every door. Mice lived under the floorboards and in the walls and often could be found in the dresser drawers, where they ate the embroidered tablecloths, as well as the lacy edges of the linen placemats. Fifteen different sorts of wood had been used for the window seats and the mantels, including golden oak, silver ash, and a peculiarly fragrant cherrywood that gave off the scent of ripe fruit even in the dead of winter, when every tree outside was nothing more than a leafless black stick. No matter how dusty the rest of the house might be, none of the woodwork ever needed polishing.

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Why I love it

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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Member ratings (13,088)

  • Alyssa B.

    Springfield, MA

    This is probably my favorite book ever… at least top 3! I went and bought a signed copy immediately after reading it. The entire Practical Magic series is magical. Wouldn’t change a thing! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Jen S.

    Hayden, ID

    I love this author! It’s a hit every time. The characters are loveable and interesting. There’s enough magic in the story to remain true to the title but it’s really about family. Love, love, love ❤️

  • Ashley H.

    Schertz, TX

    “Fall in love whenever you can.” Don’t expect this book to be the same as the movie, but do expect to love it just as much. It’s just as magical and you won’t regret reading this spell-binding book.

  • Reyia M.

    Salem, OR

    ❤️I am so in love with this book. I had never read anything by Alice Hoffman before but after finishing this book, I immediately bought the 2 prequels. The story is just so good and the writing is ⭐️

  • Adrienne H.

    Fort Leonard Wood, MO

    Absolutely in love with this book ???? In this case, the cliche “the book is better than the movie” is most certainly accurate!! Alice Hoffman has such a gift for making you feel wrapped up in it all.

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