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The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

The Rules of Magic

Repeat author

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

by Alice Hoffman

Excellent choice

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Quick take

A book about coming of age, discovering your innermost self, and most of all, the unwavering belief that true love is really all that matters.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Feminist


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Magical


  • Illustrated icon, Icons_2ndSeries

    Second in series


From beloved author Alice Hoffman comes the spellbinding prequel to her bestseller, Practical Magic.

Find your magic.

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy. Thrilling and exquisite, real and fantastical, The Rules of Magic is a story about the power of love reminding us that the only remedy for being human is to be true to yourself.

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The Rules of Magic
Once upon a time, before the whole world changed, it was possible to run away from home, disguise who you were, and fit into polite society. The children's mother had done exactly that. Susanna was one of the Boston Owenses, a family so old that the General Society of Mayflower Descendants and the Daughters of the American Revolution were unable to deny them admission to their exclusive organizations, despite the fact that they would have liked to close the door to them, locking it twice. Their original ancestor, Maria Owens, who had arrived in America in 1680, remained a mystery, even to her own family. No one knew who had fathered her child or could fathom how she came to build such a fine house when she was a woman alone with no apparent means of support. The lineage of those who followed Maria was equally dubious. Husbands disappeared without a trace. Daughters begat daughters. Children ran off and were never seen again. In every generation there were those who fled Massachusetts, and Susanna Owens had done so. She had escaped to Paris as a young woman, then had married and settled in New York, denying her children any knowledge of their heritage for their own good, which left them with nagging suspicions about who they were. It was clear from the start that they were not like other children, therefore Susanna felt she had no choice but to set down rules. No walking in the moonlight, no Ouija boards, no candles, no red shoes, no wearing black, no going shoeless, no amulets, no night-blooming flowers, no reading novels about magic, no cats, no crows, and no venturing below Fourteenth Street. Yet no matter how Susanna tried to enforce these rules, the children continued to thwart her. They insisted on being unusual.

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Why I love it

My favorite holiday is Halloween. This is something my friends have lovingly teased me about for as long as I can remember. I get it: What’s to love about a holiday where you put on cheap costumes, get drunk, do stupid things dressed as a sexy Pokemon and then regret them hungover at your desk the next morning?

But my Halloween memories are different. They spark images from my childhood; crispy crimson leaves swirling in the newly chilly air, pumpkins glowing softly on porches, my family cooking things cinnamon-y and delicious while celebrating together late into the night. Something about this nostalgic concoction of recollections has always enchanted me. As corny as it sounds, thinking back on those autumn nights inspires in me the idea that anything is possible; that magic, in whatever form you so choose to accept it, is real!

In this modern world, finding a way back to that feeling can be difficult, but this book, Alice Hoffman’s prequel to Practical Magic, transported me there instantly. With each page, I was swept into a beautiful and energetic world, a world filled with lilies and lilacs, dark skies and bright stars, and a fascinating family at the center. The Rules of Magic is the story of a family bound by fierce love and shared mystical abilities that will keep them forever linked. As the three Owens siblings grow up they start to discover dark truths about their family history, realizations that will force them to face doubt, death, and the pain of letting go of the things they love most. Will they let the curse of fear and hatred that has plagued generations past dictate the way they live during the time they are given? Or will they find the courage to heed their aunt Isabelle’s advice: "Although you cannot change your fate, you can change how you respond to it."

This is a book about coming of age, discovering your innermost self, and most of all, the unwavering belief that true love is really all that matters. A heartbreaking story written in the most exciting and magical of circumstances, The Rules of Magic unveils the remarkable beauty of our ephemeral world and the strength that lies within us all when we listen to our hearts and always fight for what we know to be true. 

I highly recommend Rules for a cozy and emotional autumn read; I felt my throat tightening as I reached the end because I didn’t know how to say goodbye. But I’m soothed by the knowledge that I don’t have to; I’m already looking forward to seeing the Owens family when I pick up this book again next fall. 

PS. I may or may not have started carrying a satchel of lavender in my shirt pocket after reading this book. Better safe than sorry!

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Member ratings (12,909)

  • Michelle M.

    Walla Walla, WA

    ℓσνє∂ тнє ¢нαяα¢тєяѕ, fσℓℓσωιиg тнє σωєиѕ ℓινєѕ. νιи¢єит ιѕ ѕυρєяв. ωяαρρє∂ уσυ ιитσ тнєιя ℓινєѕ ℓιкє α ωαям вℓαикєт. ωσυℓ∂ уσυ ρι¢к ¢συяαgє? ωσυℓ∂ яєα∂ αgαιи!

  • Maureen G.

    Jefferson, MD

    This book has all the life and soul of “Practical Magic” with different perspective.Another story charged with electricity and magic that makes you turn the pages faster.I felt so alive in this world!

  • Maddie S.

    Malden, MA

    This was an incredible book about an incredible family. Yes, it may be about magic, but it’s about so much more than that. It’s a story of resilience and growth in the face of unbelievable adversity.

  • Lauren H.

    Union City, NJ

    What’s not to love about Alice Hoffman’s whimsical and engrossing storytelling. I was absolutely thrilled/horrified to find I had missed this and I highly recommend reading…and then reread it lols!

  • Reagan F.

    Zachary, LA

    Absolutely loved this book. After reading the prequel you can’t wait to see how the other members of the Owens family fare. Full of heart and a strong family bond. The Owens’ fight for love is strong

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